Investigation into Ball State's Title IX compliance continues

Federal government look into athletics department reveals funding inequality

This is the first of a three-part series regarding the Ball State athletics department and Title IX compliance. On Wednesday, read about the gap in quality of facilities for men's and women's teams.

Ball State administrators insist the university complies with gender equity laws, but the athletics department remains stuck in a Title IX controversy that is nearing the two-year mark.

Terri Laux, a softball coach at Ball State from 1997 to 2006, said a trend of noncompliance had permeated the athletics department.

"The most frustrating thing is that this has been so blatant for so long, but no one was paying any attention or doing anything about it," she said.

Arlene Ignico, associate chairwoman of the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Science, became concerned about gender equity issues after learning of funding differences in athletic programs. She was made aware of the issue after seven coaches of female teams requested a meeting with the athletics committee in 2007.

The athletics committee is composed of university staff and faculty and oversees the athletics department.

Ignico and multiple other sources confirmed there were at least five complaints filed with the Office of Civil Rights prior to an Aug. 18, 2009, complaint acknowledged in the Kathy Bull lawsuit against Ball State.

The Office of Civil Rights, operated by the federal government, attempts to ensure gender equity in education and athletics.

Softball coach Craig Nicholson said he knew about Ball State's Title IX problems before accepting the position five years ago.

"I heard that there was a time that things were pretty bad here," he said. "There was a time when we didn't even have the funding to have 10 home games like we have this season."

Jim Bradshaw, an OCR spokesman, declined to comment on when the investigation began. He said of the 6,933 complaints filed in 2010, 96 regarded athletics. Only one-third of complaints result in an investigation, he said, and an on-site investigation is rare.

But that is what happened at Ball State.

The numbers

Budget data, as well as reports filed with The Office of Postsecondary Education, a submission every school files with the government, show a significant disparity at Ball State in favor of the men's teams — the most glaring coming in terms of salaries and funding including operating budgets, operating expenses and recruiting expenses.

In 2009, coaches of male teams earned an average of $123,087, while coaches of female teams earned $68,332. This disparity has grown since 2003, when men's team coaches earned $73,598 and coaches of female teams earned $54,961. A similar disparity exists among assistant coaches.

"Coaching salaries were always ridiculous with the difference that existed," Laux said. "That and the difference in operating budgets were huge. I know some progress has been made in recent years, but I wonder what the cause is. Is it because of the government investigation?"

Title IX expert and advocate Diane Milutinovich said she was surprised by the gap that exists at Ball State.

"It's really fascinating that the latest EADA report shows there is a 50 percent split between male and female athletes, but the seven male sports are getting 60 percent of the funding, while the female teams are getting 30 percent," she said. "I'm shocked that wasn't addressed by the Office of Civil Rights or Ball State."

Milutinovich was an athletic administrator at Fresno State until she was forced out of her position in 2002. She and two coaches who were fired won more than $20 million in discrimination lawsuits against Fresno State. Those cases share similarities with Kathy Bull's lawsuit against Ball State, which fired the women's tennis coach for NCAA violations in October 2009.

While some teams at Ball State receive nearly equal budgets, others don't. The budgets for 2010-11 appear to be equal on the surface, but some teams have to do more fundraising than others to reach the amount listed.

The men's volleyball program has to raise 83 percent of its $114,595 budget. Women's swimming raises 58 percent of its $78,625 budget.

"We fundraise nonstop," gymnastics coach Nadalie Walsh, who is responsible for 20 percent of her team's budget, said. "It's part of all our jobs as coaches now. You have to prioritize to make sure you raise enough money to sustain your program, but when it comes down to it, my team is my priority."

Ignico said the women's swimming program supports the men's swimming team with their allocation, calling into question the reliability of numbers released by the athletics department.

Strides have been made since 2003 in regard to student aid. Male teams received 58 percent of  aid from the athletics department in 2003. Since Tom Collins became athletic director in January 2006, this ratio has moved closer to even. Male teams received 53 percent of the aid the past three years.

"Title IX is here to ensure opportunities for females," men's swimming coach Bob Thomas said. "It's done its job here. I remember when the women had nothing. Now they've got scholarships near the national level."

Government Involvement

Officials from the Office of Civil Rights were on campus in 2009 investigating complaints. Only two of the 10 components of Title IX were investigated at the time. Ball State was deemed in compliance in scheduling and tutoring.

Ball State ended the investigation by entering into an agreement with the Office of Civil Rights. The resolution said Ball State would work toward compliance in the other eight areas of Title IX. The agreement did not contain an admission that the university was not in compliance with federal law.

"The university never said anything was wrong, so we don't really even know specifically what they're reporting," Milutinovich said. "That's a problem with these agreements. The universities can say they're going to address these things without really saying what they are addressing."

It remains unclear why a formal agreement between Ball State and the government was needed, if the athletic department was in compliance with the other eight areas as it claims.

Collins refused multiple face-to-face interviews with the Daily News.

Other aspects regarding the government visit have also gone unanswered.

Surveys designed to measure coaches' and athletes' assessment of Ball State's gender equity standing were distributed, but confidentiality was not assured. Other problems concerning the surveys existed as well.

"The participants were not given time to prepare the data needed to complete the survey," Ignico said.

Multiple surveys obtained through Indiana's Access to Public Records Act confirmed that those who filled out surveys were easily identified.

The athletics department, Ignico said, made other controversial decisions regarding the investigation.

"Coaches never got on the schedule to meet with the government officials," she said. "The athletic department controlled the itinerary and made sure the opportunity for coaches to meet with The Office of Civil Rights officials didn't happen. Coaches had to meet with them secretly at an off-campus location."

 

What is Title IX?

Title IX, passed in 1972, prohibits discrimination based on gender in education and activities by organizations that receive federal financial assistance.

Who regulates Title IX?

The Office of Civil Rights creates legislation, enforces regulations, investigates complaints and monitors gender equity at federally funded institutions.

How to comply with Title IX?

Institutions must pass one of three tests:

• Proportionality (Prong One): Male and females participate in athletics in numbers substantially proportional to their respective enrollments in school.

• History and Continued Practice of Program Expansion (Prong Two): There is a history and continuing practice of program expansion, demonstrably responsive to meeting interests of the underrepresented sex

• Full Accommodation of Interests and Abilities (Prong Three):

The institution demonstrates that the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex are fully accommodated by existing programs.

By the numbers

86,000

number of fewer opportunities available to female athletes at the college level

$148 million

difference between amounts available for male scholarship ($765 million) and female scholarships ($617 million)

66%

college institutions that use Prong Three to comply with Title IX


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