A Look at Women’s Participation in Sports in Maryland Two-Year Colleges

ABSTRACT

Much research has been conducted on college athletics.  The populations studied most often are four-year, NCAA member institutions.  In higher education, 40 percent of the institutions in the United States are two-year colleges.  These two-year colleges enroll more than ten million students annually (IPEDS, 2002).  Although 56 percent of the students enrolled in these institutions are women, little research exists that examines the participation in two-year college athletic programs.  The purpose of this study was to examine the degree of participation and opportunity for female students and coaches at two-year colleges within the state of Maryland.  With 18 institutions reporting participation data, results of this study showed that female students participate in far fewer numbers in Maryland than do male students.  Results of this study also showed that relatively few women hold administrative or coaching positions within existing sport programs.

INTRODUCTION

Over the last thirty-two years, female students have seen substantial gains in sports participation opportunities.  These gains came as a result of the federally mandated legislation know as Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.  Since the passage of this legislation, opportunities for girls and women to compete in sports have increased dramatically.  According to a longitudinal study by Acosta and Carpenter (1996), participation opportunities for women athletes by the late 1990’s hit an all-time high.  Increased female athletic participation is evident at all levels of sport, including high schools, colleges, and universities (NFSHSA, 2001; NCAA, 2000).

Much research (Acosta & Carpenter, 1996; Carpenter, 2003; Fitzgerald, 2003; Kramer & Marinelli, 1993) has been conducted with regards to college athletics, opportunity, and participation.  The populations studied most often are four-year, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) member institutions.  Within higher education, the two-year (also referred to as community or junior) college is taking on a greater significance.  According to a study by the U.S. Department of Education (2002), 40% of the institutions of higher education in the United States are now two-year colleges.  These two-year colleges enroll more than 10 million students annually.  Many of the athletes at these two-year colleges go on to star in major four-year athletic programs (Douchant, 2002). Although 56% of the students enrolled in these institutions are women, little research exists that examines the two-year college athletic program (Smith, 1997).  Thus, the specific purpose of this study was to examine the degree of participation and opportunity for female students and coaches at two-year colleges within the state of Maryland.

Overview of Title IX

The impetus for the change in opportunity and participation for females can be attributed to the passage of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and its Title IX provision.  Title IX was enacted to help remedy past discriminatory practices. Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972 states that: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal aid” (Title IX, n.d., para. 1).

The passage of Title IX and the threat of litigation have resulted in the vast improvement in opportunities for girls and women in sport.  With regard to intercollegiate athletics, three primary areas determine if an institution is in compliance: athletic financial assistance, accommodation of interest and abilities, and equity in other specified program areas.

A three-part test for compliance is used in determining whether the required number of participation opportunities is being provided.
An institution must show:

  • that the intercollegiate participation opportunities for its students of each sex are substantially proportionate to its male and female undergraduate enrollments; or
  • a history and continuing practice of program expansion responsive to developing interests and abilities of members of the “underrepresented sex”; or
  • that the interests and abilities of the “underrepresented sex” are fully and effectively accommodated by the existing program (Carpenter, 2003).

Compliance is established when an institution can demonstrate that it has satisfied any one of these three tests.

Title IX requires that, for an institution to be in compliance, the interest and abilities of both sexes must be accommodated.  This includes the institution’s obligation to provide a sufficient number of participation opportunities for male and female athletes.  “Participation opportunities” are defined as the number of slots on teams as determined by the number of athletes on each team.  This definition is important because athletic directors at two-year institutions often define participation by the number of teams offered and not by the number of participants (Mumford, 1998).  According to Title IX policy interpretations and recent judicial decisions, participation in the intercollegiate sports program by women should be substantially proportionate to the number of women enrolled at the given institution.  For example, if 70 percent of the students enrolled at an institution are women, then approximately 70 percent of the students participating in intercollegiate athletics should be women (Lichtman, 1997).

The impact of Title IX policy has been felt a great deal more at the four-year level than at the two-year level of college athletics (Mumford, 1998).  Although many students have benefited from this federal policy, the consequences of this policy have also been unpleasant to many institutions.  Institutions have been subjected to expensive court battles as a result of lawsuits filed by female student-athletes and coaches.  Litigation from lawsuits has risen dramatically.  The costs and consequences of these lawsuits have had a negative impact on institutions.  Institutions found in violation of Title IX have been forced to pay expensive monetary damages, attorney fees, and program support funding.  These awards have been reported as high as $1 million (Fitzgerald, 2003).

Courts have also taken more control of athletic decision making.  They have ordered specific actions, such as hiring coaches and providing practice and other facilities.  In some instances, the litigation of one Title IX claim has generated even more claims (Kramer & Marinelli, 1993).

Research Questions

With the goal of exploring women’s participation in collegiate sports in mind, the purpose of the study was to determine the degree of participation and opportunity at two-year colleges within the state of Maryland for female student athletes and coaches.
Specific research questions which guided the study were:

  • What does the leadership, in terms of the gender of administrators, and coaches, look like at these institutions?
  • At what rates do women and men participate in two-year collegiate athletic programs?  Is their participation in proportion to that of the general student body population or are women underrepresented?
  • Are Maryland two-year colleges in compliance with Title IX?  If so, how?

Methodology

Respondents

Respondents for this study were athletic directors of all two-year colleges with membership in the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference (MD JUCO).  The MD JUCO is comprised of 18 two-year colleges in the state of Maryland.

Instrumentation

A survey instrument was used in this study to gather demographic data on the leaders (athletic directors and coaches) of two-year colleges in the state of Maryland.  The survey instrument consisted of 33 items containing both closed-ended and open-ended questions.  The survey instrument was also designed to collect institutional programmatic information about coaching and intercollegiate sport opportunities.  Data was gathered for comparative purposes only.  Confidentiality of responses was guaranteed to all respondents.  The overall return rate of the survey was 83 %, which included responses from 15 subjects.

Procedure

Athletic directors (n=18) employed at degree-granting two-year colleges in the state of Maryland (MD JUCO) were mailed a cover letter, consent form, questionnaire, and a stamped self-return envelope.  Three weeks following the initial mailing, a reminder letter, survey, and stamped self-return envelope was sent to all subjects who had not responded (non-respondents).

Another method of gathering data was the review of related documents and archival records.  Documents used to gather data included the MD JUCO website, college catalogs, minutes from MD JUCO meetings, National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Student Eligibility Forms, the NJCAA 2000-2001 Handbook & Casebook, and the NJCAA website. This method of data gathering provided complementary information to that obtained in the surveys.  In this manner, the researcher could triangulate and cross-check data provided by the survey (Wolcott, 1994).

RESULTS

Administration

The gender of athletic directors in Maryland two-year colleges included 16 men (89%) and two women (11%).  The ethnic background of the athletic directors included 17 Caucasian (94%) and one African-American (6%).

Participation

Respondents were asked to identify the number of teams offered at their institution for men and women.  They were also asked to indicate the total number of student-athletes that participated on those teams.  On average, two-year colleges in Maryland sponsored seven teams per institution (four teams for men and three teams for women).  On average, 96 student-athletes participate across those seven teams (65 male and 31 female). Respondents stated that 134 teams were offered by their institutions.  Of the 134 total teams, 69 teams (51%) were offered for men and 65 teams (49%) were offered for women.  A total of 1,719 student athletes participated on those 134 teams.  Of that number, 1166 participants (68%) were male and 553 participants (32%) were female.

Coaches

Respondents were asked to identify the number of coaches at their institution.  They were also asked to specify whether these coaches were employed on a full or part-time basis.  On average, colleges employed seven coaches per institution. Respondents stated that 117 coaches were employed at Maryland institutions.  Of the 117 total coaches, 22 coaches (19%) were employed full-time at the institutions and 97 coaches (81%) were employed on a part-time basis.

DISCUSSION

This study examined the participation opportunities for female students and coaches in Maryland two-year colleges. The criteria used to measure participation opportunities were based on Title IX guidelines. With regards to Title IX guidelines, the first test (Proportionate Athletic Opportunity) is referred to as a “safe harbor.” The safe harbor test is the measuring stick most often used by institutions to show Title IX compliance (Davis, 2003).

To demonstrate compliance, Maryland two-year institutions must show that the numbers of male and female participants in its intercollegiate sports program are substantially proportionate to its male and female enrollments. If this is the case, no further inquiry needs to be made.

Maryland JUCO institutions do not meet the requirements for compliance based on this first test.  Women comprise 61% of the total enrollment in the Maryland Community College institutions. Men comprise 39% of the total enrollment (see Figure 1 – Appendix A). Women comprise 32% of the total student-athlete population. Men comprise 68% of the total student-athlete population (see Figure 2 – Appendix B). All of the two-year colleges, all 18 institutions, had more male than female participants.

Title IX obligates institutions to provide a sufficient number of participation opportunities for individuals of each sex.  Looking at the number of teams offered gives the appearance of near compliance.  Of the teams offered for students, 49% of the teams (n=65) are for women and 51% of the teams (n=69) are for men.  Looking at the number of participants on each team shows a much different picture. Looking at the number of participants shows that Maryland two-year colleges are not in compliance.  Of the number of participants on the teams, 32% of the participants (n=553) are female and 68% of the participants (n=1166) are male.

One aspect that stands out in this data is that the institutions have relatively small athletic programs.  As a result, they offer very limited opportunities for men or women to participate in sports.  The number of sport offerings was small in comparison to four-year institutions and high schools in the state.

A second important observation from the data is that most of the two-year colleges in Maryland employ their coaches on a part-time basis, as these coaches often hold other full-time jobs outside of the college.  Of the head coaches at two-year colleges in the state, 81% are part-time.  Given the limited resources of many two-year colleges, it is economically advantageous to hire coaches in this manner.  Coaches in two-year colleges are often paid by stipend or released time from teaching or administrative duties.  In some cases, the amount of the stipend is set for a specific coaching position with no relationship to the coach’s background or experience (Bichy, 1997).

The majority of the women’s teams in Maryland two-year colleges are coached by men.  According to the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act of 1998 (n.d.), women comprise only 23 % of the coaches in the Maryland JUCO. This is significant because the majority of the female student-athletes in the state never get the opportunity to be coached by a woman.  The exclusion of women from the coaching ranks can provide fuel and support for the myth that male coaches are more capable than female coaches (Mumford, 1998).

Concluding Comments

The purpose of this study was to examine the participation of women in sports in Maryland two-year colleges.  Current national participation trends at the high school and college level show that women’s sports participation has increased dramatically and women are participating in sports in record numbers.  However, women remain underrepresented.  In Maryland two-year colleges, that is the case as well.  Female students participate in far fewer numbers in Maryland than do men.  In this area, Maryland’s two-year colleges are not in compliance with Title IX.

More concerns may arise as further examination is made in the areas of administration and coaching.  In these two areas of leadership, the two-year colleges in Maryland have maintained the status quo.  The athletic directors and coaches of these two-year colleges remain mostly Caucasian and mostly male.  Although women have made adequate gains on the playing field, they continue to be left behind in a dramatic fashion, when it comes to coaching or leadership opportunities.  In these areas, Maryland’s two-year colleges are not performing well at all.

References

Acosta, R.  & Carpenter, L.  (1996). Women in intercollegiate sport: A longitudinal study – nineteen year update, 1977-1996.  Unpublished manuscript, Brooklyn College: Brooklyn, NY.

Bichy, T.  (1997). Athletic/gender equity.  Unpublished manuscript, Montgomery College: Rockville, MD.

Carpenter, L.  (2003). Gender equity: Opportunities to participate.  In D. Cotton & J. Wolohan (Eds.), Law for Recreation and Sport Managers (pp. 548-558).  Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.

Davis, M.  (2003, March 5). Title IX review concludes with competing reports. Retrieved October 1, 2004, from the Education Week website: http://www.edweek.org

Douchant, M.  (2002, March 25).  Junior college jewels. Retrieved October 6, 2004, form the College Sporting News website: http://www.collegesportingnews.com

Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act of 1998 (n.d.).  Retrieved November 1, 2004, from U.S. Department Education, Office of Postsecondary Education website: http://ope.ed.gov/Athletics/index.asp

Fitzgerald, M.  (2003). Gender equity: Coaching and administration.  In D. Cotton & J. Wolohan (Eds.), Law for Recreation and Sport Managers (pp. 548-558).  Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.

Higher Education General Information Survey.  (2002, November).  Retrieved February 21, 2004, from the U. S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics website: http://www.nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d02/tables/dt243.asp

Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems.  (2002, December).  Retrieved February 21, 2004, from the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics website: http://www.nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d02/tables/dt243.asp.

Kramer, W. & Marinelli, M.  (1993, September).  Title IX in intercollegiate athletics: Litigation risks facing colleges and universities.  Washington, DC: Baker & Botts L. L. P.

Lichtman, B.  (1997). Playing fair: What school leaders need to know about title ix and gender discrimination in athletic programs.  The American School Board Journal, 184 (8), 27.

Mumford, V.  (1998). Teams on paper: Title IX compliance in the Maryland junior college athletic conference.  Ann Arbor, MI: UMI

National Collegiate Athletic Association.  (2000, June 7).  NCAA sports participation numbers show largest increase in fourteen years [On-line].  Available: http://www.ncaa.org/releases/makemenu.cgi?research.

National Federation of State High School Associations.  (2001). Sports participation survey [On-line].  Available: http://www.nfhs.org.

Smith, H.  (1997, November). Association report: 2YC3 a federal perspective on community colleges.  Journal of Chemical Education, 74 (11), 1264.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. (n.d.).  Retrieved February 19, 2004, from U.S. Department of Labor, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management website: http://www.dol.gov/oasam/regs/statutes/titleix.htm

Wolcott, H.  (1994). Transforming qualitative data: Description, analysis, and interpretation.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

APPENDIX A
General Enrollment by Gender in Maryland Two-Year Colleges
Figure 1. Enrollment by Gender
Figure One

APPENDIX B
Total Athletes on Teams by Gender in Maryland Two-Year Colleges
Figure 2. Total Athletes on Teams
Figure 2


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