Getting rid of men on women’s basketball teams

I meant to post this last week, but ran out of time.  Anyway, from a recent News & Observer:

The women's basketball team at UNC-Chapel Hill might have to cut Scott Maynor.

a 5-11 junior from Greensboro, was dripping with sweat Wednesday
afternoon after practicing two hours against Ivory Latta and the
powerful Tar Heels. Many women's collegiate teams, especially in
basketball, bring in male students for practice. Coaches think
practicing against men — usually taller, faster and stronger — helps
their teams.

But the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics thinks
this violates the intent of Title IX, the 1972 federal legislation
requiring equality in education. Earlier this month, the committee
released a recommendation that the NCAA ban male practice players in
all women's sports.

“It's taking away opportunities from female
student-athletes,” said Patrick Nero, commissioner of the America East
Conference and a committee member. “How are they to get better if
they're sitting in practice?

“It's one thing to not be playing in
a game because they haven't reached that level yet, but for them to sit
through an entire practice while men run up and down with their
teammates? We just think it's really against the spirit of Title IX.”

It has been popular for many years for the elite women's basketball teams to use men to practice against. It is simply the best way to simulate the level of competition that you will face in games.  But, this was the first I had heard about anybody having a problem with it.  After reading the paragraphs above, I was inclined to agree with the NCAA, thinking that certainly if the non-starting women are just sitting in practice, it really is doing them a disservice.  Turns out, though, to make their case, the NCAA is bending the facts.  At least at UNC, and presumably elsewhere, this is definitely not the case:

UNC has so many practice players that every varsity athlete
participates in each activity, even those Heels who don't get to play

The committee “said some of the girls might not get as
much playing time and that baffles me,” said Maynor, the UNC junior.
“All the girls get the same playing time as Ivory.”

So, the women's bench players still get just as much practice time.  They won't be getting in the games much whether or not men are a part of their practices.  So, what exactly is the problem then?

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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