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Cutting Men's Sports Because of Football
Frank Deford SI 3/00

Why Maimi has no Men divers and Swimmers?

Football is the real villain

Posted: Wednesday March 22, 2000 02:47 PM


The NCAA tournament always draws an inordinate amount of critical interest about how much money is involved in college athletics, but the fact remains that however excessive basketball can become, the only real villain in college sport is football.

Football continues to throw everything out of whack. Football is too expensive. It requires too many student bodies. And because it is virtually the only male sport that doesn't have a female component, it invariably, ironically, ends up destroying other men's sports -- so that a college can maintain gender equity.

The University of Miami, for example, is the latest to abolish its men's swimming team, as have so many other colleges eighty-sixed gymnastics and wrestling -- even baseball-- teams. All these athletic lambs are sacrificed so that football can keep its power and keep its manpower -- the scores of scholarships required to field the Mongol hordes of players who stock a football army.

It's all fool's gold, too. Whereas a reasonable number of colleges can at least break even on men's basketball, only a tiny handful of huge universities profit off football. So football manages to not only to cost colleges money, but to cost other sports their very existence -- thereby making the men in those sports angry . . . but not at football. Rather, the sports that are axed invariably blame women for their misfortune. If we just didn't have to be equal and let those silly girls play their little games . . .

The solution to this problem is rationally simple, even as it may, unfortunately, be legally tricky.

Do you remember that wonderful old story about the man who gets a shipment of two guinea pigs? The train station manager wants to bill the new owner an additional livestock fee. The owner protests that guinea pigs are not really pigs, not livestock. "Pigs is pigs," replies the trainman. So, the guy refuses to pay extra to pick up his two guinea pigs, they start breeding -- and soon the train station is overrun with guinea pigs, multiplying exponentially.

Well, Title IX, the federal legislation that mandates gender equality for sports in high school and college, is being scarred by the same simplistic obeisance to terminology. Sports is sports. No! Big-ticket football is to sports what guinea pigs are to livestock. In college, monster football is entertainment. It should be forcibly removed from every Department of Athletics and placed in its own Department of Amusement. Furthermore, there should be no association permitted between football and other collegiate sports, men's or women's.

Football could then be administered by its own stand-alone budget and by its own rules. Of course the players should be paid. They pay coaches, don't they? Those colleges which won't opt for this football-quarantine arrangement -- and happily, most of them won't -- will then downgrade their football team to Division II status, where football is treated the way it should be, no different from wrestling and swimming.

Title IX is noble in its intent, but it can never attain its purpose of providing athletic opportunities for men and women alike until we acknowledge the truth that as sure as all pigs is not pigs, big-time football is not college sport.

As a matter of fact, that is what football really is: a pig.

These commentaries, which appear each Wednesday on National Public Radio's Morning Edition, are posted weekly by CNNSI.com.

The opinions expressed here are solely those of the writer.

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