Scoring a 10 on the WTF Meter

This piece originally appeared on my sports and culture blog, Knowledge and Valor.  It was first published on 27 May 2007.

My love of sports is something I grew up with. From football to basketball, baseball, softball, tennis–pretty much anything but golf or car racing (not sports)–I basically love ’em all. I’m especially a big fan of college sports. Nonetheless, I haven’t been paying much attention to any sport for the better part of six months. I’ve simply been preoccupied. So, when I decided to peruse ESPN.com the other day, Iwas shocked to find an article concerning the NCAA rules on scholarship loss by female athletes.

The article talks about how the NCAA is considering revising its policy on pregnant athletes. At present, schools are allowed to yank the scholarships of female athletes if they become pregnant. I honestly could not believe it. If I ever needed evidence that (A) Title IX is not properly enforced, and (B) Title IX does not go far enough in its protection of females’ rights to equal education, I’ve found it.

A large segment of the population is ignorant about what Title IX is all about. While it’s commonly written off as a school sports law, it is actually focused on education, in general. It requires that females be given equal access to education. Once upon a time, girls who became pregnant or got married were forced out of school. My mother, for example, went to school in the heavily Mormon White Mountains of Arizona. At her school, pregnant and married girls were thought to be corrupting influences who had to be kept away from “good” girls. They were not allowed to complete their educations. Title IX put a stop to that. So, I wonder, how are schools allowed to threaten students with loss of scholarships for getting pregnant?

The old double standard rears its hideous head on this one. The number of male athletes who have at least one out-of-wedlock child is staggering. None are threatened with losing their scholarships. Anyone who has seen the movie Hoop Dreams has seen how some coaches even encourage their young male charges to basically dump their child completely on the mother. They need to be “boys,” out playing sports–not worrying about being home to watch a kid. Of course, the fact that the young girl’s life is made that much harder by such behavior isn’t the coaches worry.
So, why is the male athlete/young father encouraged to continue school and his athletic pursuits, while the female athlete/young mother is threatened with the loss of scholarships? Because she’s a “bad” girl? Because she needs to be punished for her “mistake,” her “irresponsibility”?
I can already hear the claims that it’s about time taken off to give birth. Why, then, are male athletes not threatened with loss of scholarship if they are injured or get sick? One of the players on the University of Arizona men’s basketball team missed the entire season this past year with a case of mono. He was not threatened with the loss of his scholarship. Players who have debilitating injuries, even career-ending injuries are usually allowed to keep their scholarships, even if they never step on the playing field or court again. What is the difference?

The fact is that the loss of a scholarship at such a time in a young woman’s life is likely to end her future and that of her child. At the exact time when money and time are going to dwindle, her ability to pay for college can be taken away? How can anyone who does such a thing live with themselves?

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