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In the 2012 Olympics the U.S. women’s gymnastics team finished first and won a gold medal. The U.S. men’s gymnastics team, on the other hand, failed to earn even a single medal and finished a dismal fifth. That result, and a broader decline in men’s college sports, is the direct legacy of federal gender quotas.
In 1980 the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) featured more than 70 men’s gymnastics teams but by 2012 fewer than 20 remained. In 1981-82 there were 1,367 male gymnasts but only 318 by 2010-11, when many more schools were part of the NCAA. Declining college opportunity causes male high-school gymnasts to lose interest and that, in turn, affects the men’s Olympic gymnastics team. It last won gold 28 years ago in 1984, with performers such as Mitch Gaylord, Peter Vidmar and Tim Daggett.
The federal government imposes gender quotas through the “proportionality” requirements of Title IX. The measure assumes men and women are “undifferentiated” and mandates that athletic opportunities conform to female/male enrollment. The easiest way to gain proportionality and avoid lawsuits is to eliminate men’s teams. The more than 2,200 victims include the Boston University football program, the Colgate University baseball team, the Princeton wrestling team and the UCLA swimming and diving team, a gold medal powerhouse.
In 1999 the University of New Mexico eliminated men’s wrestling, swimming and gymnastics. Men’s rugby was the longest standing team at UC Berkeley, going back more than 100 years and winner of 25 national titles. But in 2010 UC Berkeley downgraded the men’s rugby team to varsity club status, placing it below the intercollegiate level and rendering it ineligible for university financing. The team was a victim of the Title IX proportionality requirement. “We’re a team of 60 young males in the program,” coach Jack Clark told reporters, “so that head count hurt us.”
College bosses, a rather spineless lot, deny anti-male discrimination and claim that financial considerations are also in play. That may be true, but by taking federal education money in the first place, even in the form of federal student aid, college bosses put themselves under Title IX rules. Such federal measures, like athletic performances, should be evaluated not by their equal-opportunity claims but by their destructive results. The Olympic medal count, and the forced decline of men’s college sports, shows that Title IX tilts the playing field against men.