Boise State has taken the terror out of Title IX — two words that often strike fear into the hearts of college athletic directors and coaches of men's sports.
The school's announcement Wednesday that it will add four women's sports to achieve the highest level of Title IX compliance — proportionality — was vitally important, as much for what it said as what it didn't say.
The Broncos will not cut any of its eight men's sports.
Unlike some schools that dismantle men's programs under the guise of Title IX, Boise State and athletic director Gene Bleymaier should be applauded for reaching gender equity within the proper context.
"This is the right way to do it. When that law was passed, it was not intended to reduce the opportunities for men. The intent was to increase the opportunities for women. We want to do this the right way," Bleymaier said.
Part of a much broader 1972 education law, Title IX provides for equal opportunities in academics and athletics. It was never meant to be the death knell for men's sports like wrestling and swimming.
That the law has led to dramatic cuts in some men's programs is a product of college administrations' cowardice in cutting excessive spending on football and men's basketball, much more than it is an indictment of the law.
Consider: the successful wrestling program at BSU had projected expenditures of less than $250,000 for the 2005-06 fiscal year, which ends June 30.
For schools to disband wrestling programs — from 1981-82 to 2004-05, the number of Division I men's wrestling teams fell from 146 to 86 — and blame it on Title IX is disingenuous.
Football and men's basketball at Boise State account for more than $4 million of the athletic department's $15.5 million budget — and that number does not include game management, stadium operations or facility costs associated with those programs.
Those sports undeniably produce much of the revenue for the department, funds which help offset the addition of new programs. But clearly a bit of trimming in those programs is better than eliminating a wrestling or men's soccer team.
Bleymaier said the new programs — soccer in 2008, lacrosse in 2012 and an undetermined sport in 2017 — would primarily be funded through increased monies from the university and fundraising. Swimming and diving, which begins competition this fall, is simply replacing the suspended women's skiing program.
No doubt there are still concerns. Coaches of existing women's sports and Olympic men's programs are worried that their already thin budgets will be diminished by the expense of adding sports.
Fans wishing the Broncos would add baseball or men's soccer can keep dreaming. Even after 2017, when the Broncos achieve proportionality, adding a men's sport would mean adding another women's sport.
The current budget simply won't allow for that.
That doesn't diminish from what Title IX has accomplished.
It has greatly expanded opportunities for women in college athletics without significantly diminishing the opportunities for men. In 1981-82, the average number of male student-athletes at Division I programs was 273.5. In 2004-05, the number was 268.5.
In the same time period, women's participation soared from 114.8 per institution to 216.8.
"It's hard to argue against. It's a great thing to have — to allow opportunities for your students that mirror the undergraduate enrollment. That's a tremendous goal and it's the right thing to do," Bleymaier said.
"The universities that commit to proportionality can use that to their advantage and can talk about that and be proud of that and publicize the fact. Not only are we committed to Title IX, but we're committed to gender equity and we're committed to proportionality, which is the strongest statement that you can make."
Boise State, thankfully, made that statement the right way.