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Title IX Doesn't Kill Lesser Sports. ADs Do.

USAToday's Erik Brady (the article) and The Washington Post's Alan Goldenbach (the article) report on protests aimed at Title IX as the cause of program cuts in men's and women's (!) sports at James Madison, Maryland, Howard, and William & Mary.

The College Sports Council (student athletes and supporters) advocates reform of Title IX because ADs are cutting lesser men's and women's (still worth emphasizing this weird twist) sports in compliance efforts. I have argued here and elswhere that it is not Title IX's fault that athletic directors choose to comply this way. In fact, economists should expect them to choose this route rather than rearrange the revenues generated by college athletes.

I have also argued that, since there are rents included in the salaries of ADs and coaches, earned on the backs of "amateur" athletes, a tax system for funding other goals seems a natural. College presidents could, for example, work through the NCAA to tax the true beneficiaries of the NCAA amateur requirement, coaches and ADs, to comply with Title IX. A carefully chosen tax would leave the distribution of ADs and coaches pretty much unchanged; as long as there truly are rents, taxing them shouldn't change the marginal considerations of coaches and ADs.

And JMU's June 30, 2003 audit of intercollegiate athletic programs offers a bit of insight into such a tax.

JMU is I-AA. In 2003, football coaches combined for a salary total of $523,119. The total of all coaches' salaries, including football, was $2.3 million. Administrative salaries were almost exactly $2 million. The sum of all salaries was about $4.6 million. There was also another $1.1 million in fringe benefits (retirement and insurance). All operating revenues were about $1.4 million. Adding in about $13.6 million in student fee allocations, the department about broke even on its $15.1 million spending.

JMU officials claim that cutting seven men's and three women's (I still can't get over it) varsity sports will save them 2.7% of its current $21 million budget (WOW, that's about a 32% increased budget since 2003), or about $546,000. If it really is true that the aim of cutting these sports was to save this amount, as well as moving toward Title IX compliance, the same could be accomplished by taxing "salaries and benefits" by about 10% based on the 2003 reports. No doubt the percentage is smaller now in 2006 with a spending budget at $21 million.

It doesn't seem unreasonable to me that the rents earned by the football coaches at JMU are on the order of $52,312 (10% of 2003 football coaches' salaries), or that the rents going to administrators are on the order of $197, 926 (10% of administrative salaries).

Different factions can argue about the fairness of taxing coaches and ADs. But the law of the land, Title IX, already imposes a fairness requirement on athletic departments. And it is long past time for University administrators, the overseers of college athletics, to recognize that the money is already there. And quit blaming Title IX for the choices made by ADs.