“How Title IX Is Stifling High School Baseball in Florida”

by Walter Olson on September 24, 2010

Parents at a Brevard County school want to chip in to upgrade the local team, but that would risk triggering an impermissible gender imbalance. [Saving Sports] Also, why Title IX has been less helpful than one might think for women’s gymnastics; and Alison Schmauch has a new paper on Title IX for the Federalist Society. Update: school board rejects parents’ request (Florida Today h/t Gitarcarver, Saving Sports)

{ 19 comments }

1 gitarcarver 09.24.10 at 12:03 pm

There is a little bit of misinformation here. The parents don’t want to “upgrade” the local team, they want to create a team at the high school. Currently, Edgewood is a “choice” school. Kids and parents elect to attend the school. The school does not have a baseball team but some kids play on a “club / traveling” team under the Edgewood name. The parents and kids are looking to create a sanctioned team under the FHSAA.

There are other issues for the school as well. One has to do with funding of the team in future years. If the parents fund the team now, drawing kids to the school to play baseball, what happens if parents stop funding the team? Is the school board locked into paying for the team if parents stop funding it?

Another issue is that coaches in Brevard County are generally members of the teacher’s union. While Florida is a “right to work” state and there is nothing barring a coach from not joining the teacher’s union, union heads have said that if the team was not doing well, and the coaching staff was replaced, they would look at whether a union or non-union coach was terminated. (And that is not even considering the protection teachers and coaches have under the union contract.)

Lastly is the Title IX issue. While it seems silly to consider this, it should be noted that Brevard County is the home of the Merritt Island High School Mustangs. You may remember Merritt Island being mentioned in a John Stossel book. Over the years, the boy’s baseball team had raised funds through sponsors, car washes, candy drives, etc, to raise the quality of the baseball field. They installed lights, better seating, and better dressing facilities all at no expense to the local school budget. A young lady and her family sued under Title IX saying that as the facilities for fast pitch softball were not as nice, this was gender discrimination. Part of the suit was based on the idea that because the facilities were not as nice, college scouts would not come to the school, thereby denying the girls chances at scholarships that the nicer boy’s field would provide. The community and boy’s team wondered how their hard work in providing for a better field was somehow discrimination. They asked whether they should have donated half of the money they raised to the girls’ fast pitch team? Should the girls profit from the work the boys did?

Ultimately, a judge ruled that the improved boy’s field was a violation of Title IX. The judge went so far as to say that until the girl’s field was brought up to the level of the boy’s field, the boy’s could not play night games (using lights the girl’s field did not have) and could not use more stands than the girls had. This resulted in sections of the stands being cordoned off and people stood along the fence to watch the team play.

The county is rightfully shy of any Title IX controversy as they got spanked in a ridiculous Title IX suit previously.

2 gitarcarver 09.24.10 at 1:50 pm

Just as a followup to the above, the Brevard County School Board met on September 15th to discuss the Edgewood situation and decided to push a decision on the baseball team back to another unspecified time.

Part of the issue raised was Title IX with the school board lawyer reminding the board members of the Merritt Island case. However, Edgewood is a little different. At the school, there are fewer girls than boys enrolled academically, but there are more girls sports (in number and girls participating) than boys. The school has a baseball field, but not a softball field, which is part of the Title IX concern according to the school board.

3 Stewart Peterson 09.24.10 at 3:20 pm

Why not argue that baseball and softball aren’t the same sport? For instance, entirely different muscle groups are used when pitching, and the size and weight of the ball change the strategies you can use. When was the last time a softball player had an outfield assist from a comparable distance? Try throwing a conventional breaking ball underhand (and tell me how long the resulting home run is). Try throwing a splitter with a 9-inch softball, even if you do it overhand (actually, don’t – I’m not liable for any torn tendons!). While you’re at it, why not argue that softball is deliberately designed to make people who play it look unathletic, that designating softball as a “women’s” sport is itself discriminatory because it requires more strength to play properly, and the end result is that the women who play it look like worse ballplayers than they are?

I don’t at all buy the argument that “weak” women need softball, FWIW. A softball is bigger and heavier, and creates more aerodynamic drag, and being softer, more energy is wasted in deforming the ball when hitting it. Logically, if you were going to make that argument, women should play baseball and men should play softball; baseball isn’t a strength sport like football, and all the muscle in the world won’t help if you don’t know what you’re doing. IANAL, but I think the school would have a good argument, unless some judge has already ruled against this angle in another case.

4 gitarcarver 09.24.10 at 7:20 pm

A softball is bigger and heavier, and creates more aerodynamic drag, and being softer, more energy is wasted in deforming the ball when hitting it.

A softball is actually harder than a baseball.

And just so you know, in Florida high schools, boys can play softball and girls may play baseball. It is not about the sport, it is about the number of athletes participating in a sport of any kind.

5 Stewart Peterson 09.24.10 at 7:56 pm

A softball is actually harder than a baseball.

Could you quantify this statement? I’ve hit both and thrown both, and it’s always felt to me like the softball deformed more. I don’t have the numbers either – maybe I was squeezing the softball more by applying more force to it, but it seemed to be much more than that.

My fundamental point, though, was that the school might have a decent case if it argued that the rules of softball themselves were discriminatory, because even if you accept the “women are weak” stereotype, softball doesn’t lower the bar to be “fair” for them. It actually raises the bar, and I’m sure a lawyer could find some case where “raising the bar for a disadvantaged group above that required for an advantaged group is discrimination” was the ruling. Literacy tests for voting, perhaps? Weren’t some of them graded subjectively by poll workers?

It is not about the sport, it is about the number of athletes participating in a sport of any kind.

Then why is an equivalent-quality softball field being used as a test for the equality of the programs, if softball is not being used as the “baseball equivalent” for girls? Why not count the gym floor or the gymnastics mats, if other sports are included?

6 Christ on a Cracker 09.24.10 at 8:42 pm

I don’t know much about the sport, but can’t the softball folks play on the good field?

7 gitarcarver 09.24.10 at 9:53 pm

Could you quantify this statement?

Sure. Fast pitch softballs have a harder core and are more tightly wound than baseballs. Slow pitch softballs are not as hard as baseballs. But in the sports we are talking about, the softball used is harder and rebounds more than a baseball. (The old COR standard.)

My fundamental point, though, was that the school might have a decent case if it argued that the rules of softball themselves were discriminatory, because even if you accept the “women are weak” stereotype, softball doesn’t lower the bar to be “fair” for them.

I might accept that argument if there were discrimination. All the players play under the same rules, so there is no discrimination there. Secondly, as I stated, in Florida, girls can play baseball and boys can play fast pitch softball. That doesn’t seem to be discriminatory to me.

Then why is an equivalent-quality softball field being used as a test for the equality of the programs, if softball is not being used as the “baseball equivalent” for girls?

The ruling in the Merritt Island case was ridiculous. To this day I have not talked to a lawyer or county official that understands it.

Title IX is supposed to guarantee that men and women have the same opportunities in sports. Apparently the judge looked at the fields and facilities and decided that since the facilities were not equal, there was a Title IX violation. The only problem was that the girls had the same opportunity to work, raise money, etc to make their facilities were the same as the boys. They did not.

The school board argued that they had funded the programs equally, and as the boy’s team and their boosters had done more to privately enhance the fields and facilities, the school board had complied with Title IX. (In fact, as a baseball field is larger, the school board argued that less was spent per square foot on the boys field by the county than on the girl’s field.) The judge ruled that it was the results, not who accomplished them. At one point, the judge actually said that the school board should have noticed the boy’s field was “better” and stopped the boys and their boosters from working on the field, raising money, etc.

If anyone can figure that out, I’d pay them a dollar.

8 Jackie Chiles 09.24.10 at 11:27 pm

Why stop with facilities? The boys should be prohibited from practicing longer, working harder in the offseason, etc. if that results in their having a team that is more successful than the softball team and would attract more spectators and interest from college recruiters.

9 gitarcarver 09.25.10 at 11:42 am

I don’t know much about the sport, but can’t the softball folks play on the good field?

Sorry, I missed this comment.

The size of the fields are different. A baseball field is 90′ between bases while a softball field is only 60′. Outfield fences are deeper on a baseball field as well.

The dimensions are not the main problem though. The main problem is that in baseball, there is a 9′ radius pitching mound that is 10″ high. The area from where a softball pitcher throws is flat and level with the rest of the playing field. To play softball on a baseball field you would have to remove the baseball pitching mound.

It sounds silly, but a mound is carefully constructed and a professional mound takes about a month to build. If you don’t build them correctly, there is a great risk of injury to the pitcher.

10 CT_Yankee 09.25.10 at 7:08 pm

1 gitarcarver The judge went so far as to say that until the girl’s field was brought up to the level of the boy’s field, the boy’s could not play night games (using lights the girl’s field did not have) and could not use more stands than the girls had. This resulted in sections of the stands being cordoned off and people stood along the fence to watch the team play.

Each post of the cordon blocking the stands should bear a sign indicating “Closed per court order obtained by (parents&law firm names)”, preferably with the parent’s pictures and the firm’s logo. The game schedules should be printed with spots for night games labeled “Cancelled per…. (Parents/Firm)” Let them get the publicity they desired until they fear to shop locally and feel the need to move to avoid the hostility of the neighbors. Eventually, new idiots and their lawyers might think twice about when to sue.

11 Jerry Vandesic 09.25.10 at 7:38 pm

Why can’t the school district take the money they would save by having the boys team externally sponsored and use it for a girls softball team?

But that’s really not the issue. The issue is that you can’t have external groups setting school policy and deciding which kids get to play sports. Say the school district cancelled all sports, and simply let the external boosters pay for what they wanted to see. Would it be OK for these external groups to only sponsor boy’s sports? No.

12 gitarcarver 09.25.10 at 8:12 pm

Say the school district cancelled all sports, and simply let the external boosters pay for what they wanted to see. Would it be OK for these external groups to only sponsor boy’s sports? No.

Ah! One of the issues raised against this type of sponsoring was that it would be “unfair” as students with affluent parents would have an advantage over kids from “economically disadvantaged” parents.

I am sure that someone would launch a lawsuit against that as well.

13 no name guy 09.26.10 at 2:36 pm

Jerry
Uhhh. If some one wishes to sponsor only a particular activity, its not unfair that other activities aren’t equally sponsored. Its my private money. I will give it to whomever I damn well wish to for what ever my motivations are.

Or let’s just tell the parents sure…donate all the money you want. But we will take it and put it into a community pot at dole it out to all the sports equally. Sure you cam have a baseball team…it’ll cost 200k a year sine you also have to buy softball, volleyball, gymnastics, 2 soccer teams, track and cross country, swimming and diving. Yeah…that would be a policy that would guarantee great outcomes. Sheese…..

If I want to spend it sponsoring only

14 Hogbody Spradlin 09.26.10 at 5:27 pm

And this is a surprise? Title IX has already wrecked college wrestling, and baseball is next. College administrators have the rough choice between upgrading womyn’s sports or weakening men’s sports to comply. Which option do you think they usually choose?

15 Allan 09.26.10 at 11:30 pm

Everyone is missing the point of Title IX.

The point of Title IX is that schools (high school and college) were spending money on sports predominantly for males and the facilities for males were better and males received priority on things like practice time.

The problem is that the male dominated sport of football got scores of participants. Consequently, to even out the numbers, the girls would either need a sport that had scores of participants OR more sports teams. Since there is no girls sport that has the participants like football, they got more teams.

As a result, schools had to make a choice: curtail football or curtail other teams. Schools have generally chosen to keep football, so other mens’ sports get the short end of the stick.

IMHO, the answer is not to attack Title IX. The answer is to reduce team sizes to sane numbers, say 30, and then those other mens’ teams will blossom.

The kicker is college football at the highest level. That is where the money is. It seems to me that those teams can be large AND support other sports, too.

16 William Nuesslein 09.27.10 at 5:28 am

allan claims that women were shortchanged with respect to athletics. But colleges compete for students, and some schools could specialize in women sports. Connecticut does that with respect to basketball and some California schools have terrific woman’s volleyball. Title IX imposes equality of results where the market does not. It’s time to get rid of title IX.

17 Allan 09.27.10 at 9:18 am

William,

If we were talking only about sports and revenues, I would be with you 100%. But we are not.

Most sports do not make money, they cost money. The money comes from the school budget. With a small number of exceptions, the money to pay for the sports through the school budget comes, in part, from federal taxes. I do not oppose a policy that has a goal to spend money equal between males and females. If that had been the case before Title IX, then Title IX would not have been necessary.

There are many, many, many sports opportunities outside of schools. American Legion baseball, pee-wee football, club soccer, gymnastics, and tennis are all examples. There is no requirement for funding equality in those sports. If that is your proposed solution for all sports-related issues — privatization — I am with you 100%.

18 gitarcarver 09.29.10 at 9:01 am

As a followup to this story, last night the Brevard County (FL) school board voted 5-0 to not allow the parents of the players to form a high school varsity baseball team.

http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20100929/NEWS01/9290345/1086/School+board+rejects+Edgewood+parent-funded+baseball+team

“The recurring theme: Saying yes could leave Brevard open to potential lawsuits and financial liabilities when the district is already struggling with past and future budget cuts….

19 Paul Lonardo 09.29.10 at 9:19 am

I wanted to pass along this information about a recently released book about college baseball and Title IX, which I hoped might pique your interest.

STRIKE IX tells the plight of the 1999 Providence College Friars baseball team and their beloved sport, which they learned would be eliminated at the end of that upcoming season in order for the school to comply with the federal regulation, Title IX. Written to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of PC’s historic season, this book was the result of speaking with a majority of the players on that team, and tells the personal ordeal that these Providence College athletes went through on the field and off the field when they learned that their sport had been cut. They collectively put aside all their emotions and anger and went out and had the best season in the 80-year history of the school’s baseball program, winning the Big East Championship and getting into the NCAA Division I Tournament with a lot more to prove. This is a sports story, but it is also an inspirational story about team work and achieving something when everyone else writes you off.

For further information, please visit the book publisher’s website http://www.buybooksontheweb.com/product.aspx?ISBN=0-7414-5690-7

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