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and disgust as they read the Freeh reports on Penn State and the Sandusky incident. There’s plenty of outrage and horror to be found on the front page of newspapers, in the sports pages and from talking heads on cable sports shows. And justifiably so, especially when perusing the paucity of moral and ethical standards displayed within the University. Consider the opening paragraph from the New York Times’ piece:

Behind the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal at Penn State lay a series of failures all the way up the university’s chain of command — shortcomings that were the result of an insular and complacent culture in which football was revered, rules were not applied and the balance of power was dangerously out of whack.

In an investigation lasting more than seven months, Louis J. Freeh, a former director of the F.B.I., found a legendary football coach bending his supposed bosses to his will, a university staff that was mostly unaware of its legal duties to report violence and sexual abuse, and a university president who hid problems from the board of trustees and was guided by a fear of bad publicity.

The trustees, who hired Mr. Freeh to explore the university’s failings, fare little better in Mr. Freeh’s formal report on his investigation: they are portrayed as passive overseers, so in thrall to the president and the coach that they failed to demand even the barest displays of accountability.

But there are some, me included, who, when the news first broke, shook there heads in a sad, unsurprised way. First, on a smaller scale, this is the University that hosted and coddled and protected Rene Portland, a known, active homophobe. Those close to the program understood that Joe Paterno’s support was one of the reasons Portland could spew her vitriol and humiliate and scar young women. So, are we surprised the Paterno’s Penn State would put football above the lives of young children? No.

On a larger scale, the calls for change and reform touch my pessimistic, nay, cynical side. Why? Hear any echoes from the past in this section from Seattle Times’ Coaches Who Prey series, the section “Misconduct often goes unpunished by districts“?

When a friend told coach Stu Gorski in 1995 that Mount Adams School District had hired “a phenomenal wrestling coach,” Gorski froze.

“Tell me you didn’t hire Randy Deming,” he pleaded.

The district had.

Gorski, a football and golf coach in Whatcom County, knew Deming for years as a rival coach at nearby Blaine High School. Gorski also knew of Deming’s reputation as a groper of girls who had even been charged with child molestation.

When Gorski learned Deming would also be teaching girls, he warned: “You’re putting him back into the fire.”

But the Mount Adams district, in Yakima County, seemed less interested in court records and more in Deming’s wrestling record. As one of the most successful coaches in the state, he had a résumé that seemed to shield him from two decades of sexual-misconduct complaints.

Gorski had tried to warn people about Deming, the 1990 Class A Washington state coach of the year. “I even wrote a letter to the Mount Adams School Board,” said Gorski, “but never got a reply.”

More echoes: From an editorial in 2004 at the Seattle Times:

A Yakima middle school-teacher and soccer coach accused of sexually harassing students made a severance deal with his school district this year to suppress information about his disreputable history.

As a recent Seattle Times series uncovered, what looks like a decent deal for the accused teacher and the East Valley School District is a bum deal for kids.

Such deals are not uncommon. Fortunately, they’ll soon be history thanks to a tough new package of state laws.

Flash forward to this week’s NY Times: Paterno Won Sweeter Deal Even as Scandal Played Out

In January 2011, Joe Paterno learned prosecutors were investigating his longtime assistant coach Jerry Sandusky for sexually assaulting young boys. Soon, Mr. Paterno had testified before a grand jury, and the rough outlines of what would become a giant scandal had been published in a local newspaper.

That same month, Mr. Paterno, the football coach at Penn State, began negotiating with his superiors to amend his contract, with the timing something of a surprise because the contract was not set to expire until the end of 2012, according to university documents and people with knowledge of the discussions. By August, Mr. Paterno and the university’s president, both of whom were by then embroiled in the Sandusky investigation, had reached an agreement.

Mr. Paterno was to be paid $3 million at the end of the 2011 season if he agreed it would be his last. Interest-free loans totaling $350,000 that the university had made to Mr. Paterno over the years would be forgiven as part of the retirement package. He would also have the use of the university’s private plane and a luxury box at Beaver Stadium for him and his family to use over the next 25 years.

In their editorial yesterday, the Times says:

Penn State’s leaders bear most of the blame for giving the university’s imprimatur to the body-and-soul-damaging abuse that Mr. Sandusky committed. But the report shows that the entire university system — the police, the trustees, the athletic department — failed at just about every level. As the assaults were taking place in 2001, for example, Penn State was out of compliance with the federal Clery Act of 1990, which requires the college to compile and report crime statistics related to specific offenses, including sexual offenses. The university’s Clery Act policy was still in draft form in 2011 and had never been implemented.

The Freeh report lays out more than 100 recommendations for what the university needs to do to prevent anything like this from happening again — essentially requiring the university to rebuild its leadership system from the ground up. There should also be substantial penalties imposed under the Clery Act and state law. Laws without consequence are not laws at all.

Laws are only as strong as those who are supposed to abide by or enforce them. Or, as is so often the case, those who are brave enough to speak up when laws are being violated. It took an enormous amount of courage for the young men abused by Sandusky not only to speak up, but to testify. It took an enormous amount of courage for Jen Harris to speak up. They are, for many reasons, the exception, not the rule simply because power is, well, powerful. Standing up to emotional and physical bullies needs internal courage and external allies.

In the Penn State case, the bully is college football. How optimistic are you that college presidents, alumni groups, athletic directors, fans and newspapers are going to stand up to big time college football longtime?

Yah, that’s what I thought.

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Some “knock on” effect

From the StarNews in Delaware: UNCW has its eye out on keeping up with Title IX

“It’s a non-issue for UNCW,” athletic director Jimmy Bass said Wednesday afternoon. “We count tennis players as tennis players. Kids that scrimmage with the women’s basketball team are just students.

“We do everything here straight up.”

From Ed Graney at the Las Vegas Review Journal: Apathy spurs fudged Title IX numbers

The problem with Title IX compliance was, is and always will be football, which more than anything has led to the cutting of men’s sports across the country and schools padding their numbers on the women’s side with male practice players, which, by the way, the Department of Education has no issue.

(Good news for Texas A&M.)

But when you allot 85 scholarships and more than 100 participation spots to football, you have to discover an equal slice of the pie on the women’s side.

Football became too big, too powerful. Yes, it makes most of the money. It also uses most of the resources.

Sorry. Division I football could survive with 40 scholarships and participation numbers of 80. It could. It also would solve most if not all Title IX issues overnight.

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via email from Erin over at the Title IX blog:

I just read A&M’s response on your blog and they are not technically wrong.  EADA reporting requirements ask for a tally of “participants” and the definition of “participant” includes anyone who practices with the team. 

The only problem with their defense in my opinion is that the well-known purpose of the EADA is to make gender equity transparent.  So it’s not exactly in the spirit of the rules to report male practice players there without noting in the “caveat” section of the reporting form that you have done so.  For an example of a university that does report in that manner, pull up the EADA reports for Cornell. 

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Texas A&M – NY Times: College Teams Relying On Deception Undermine Gender Equity; Byrne Responds

The New York Times published a story on Tuesday questioning our compliance with Title IX and specifically referenced our national champion women’s basketball team and the male A&M students who practice with the team.

We are very proud of our Title IX compliance at Texas A&M and feel that we are leaders nationally in this area. In fact, every year we have a third party fully evaluate our Title IX compliance. Such an evaluation is not mandated.

Unfortunately, facts can get in the way of accurately reporting a story, especially when looking at an easy target like the recent national champion of women’s basketball. Misconceptions and misinformation grows on itself. The New York Times writes things and other media regurgitate the information how they see fit.

Here are the facts.

Title IX essentially gives female student-athletes the same opportunities as male student-athletes. In order to comply with Title IX, one of the tests is the proportion of male vs. female students enrolled at the institution as compared to the proportion of athletic opportunities offered.

Title IX regulations require that an institution NOT count male practice players.

Meanwhile, the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act (EADA) requires male practice players to be reported as participants on any women’s team they practice with. In 2009-10, we had male practice players associated with women’s basketball, women’s tennis, and volleyball.

The EADA is a different calculation than that used for compliance with Title IX regulations. The bottom line is we are dealing with two separate laws with two separate definitions of a participant. The fact is we reported accurate numbers in each case, and we are compliant with both.

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responses. Gender Games: Answering Questions About Roster Management and Title IX

With 270 comments and counting, New York Times readers reacted to my article in Tuesday’s paper about roster management with passion, insight and numerous personal stories about how Title IX had affected their lives, whether good or bad. Many readers questioned why so much attention is paid to female athletes and argued that the fact that 57 percent of college students are now female is proof of discrimination against men by colleges and universities. Others asserted that Title IX overlooks the fact that men and women have different interests, and raised the question of whether fewer women want to play sports. Still others said the examples cited in the article showed that, 40 years after it was passed, Title IX needs to be rewritten.

Here’s a selection of questions that readers posed, and my responses.

Expect more, since Thomas’ article the first in a series of articles.

I can’t encourage you enough to get educated on the subject of Title IX. It’s AMAZING how much mis- and dis-information there is out there.- Few Americans Familiar With Title IX, Though Most Approve of It. Oh, and the Times also has an editorial: Cynical Games With Title IX

These practices are cynical and might be illegal. Congress clearly needs to tighten the reporting standards, so that schools are required tell the whole truth about their athletic teams and their efforts to ensure gender equality. Boards of trustees and alumni need to take immediate responsibility, pressing their schools to comply, not just with the letter of the law, but with the spirit.

Adds the Title IX Blog:

In sum, the NYT is the bearer of bad news when it exposes the extent and scope of universities’ false reports of gender equity. I wish that we could believe universities who report gender equity in athletics. But at least the good news is that after this public exposure, investigators, complainants, plaintiffs, bloggers, and other watchdogs are less likely to be duped by false numbers going forward. We’ll dig below the surface of universities’ reported data and demand stronger evidence in support of universities’ claims to gender equity. When they realize that their false numbers will not protect them, maybe they’ll start reporting the real ones.

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A response

USF defends gender-equity practices after NYT story

After being featured prominently in a New York Times story on college athletic programs “relying on deception” to meet Title IX standards, USF officials said Tuesday that they have changed how they count female track athletes for gender-equity purposes, but that they remain among the most balanced schools in the state and Big East conference even after those changes.

“You can take all those (questionable) numbers away, and we’re still in conformity (with Title IX),” executive athletic director Bill McGillis said. “If your premise is that we are including kids on the cross-country roster who are not participating in cross-country in order to comply with the proportionality piece of Title IX, that would be false.”

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over at the Title IX blog…

From the New York Times: College Teams, Relying on Deception, Undermine Gender Equity

Ever since Congress passed the federal gender-equity law known as Title IX, universities have opened their gyms and athletic fields to millions of women who previously did not have chances to play. But as women have surged into a majority on campus in recent years, many institutions have resorted to subterfuge to make it look as if they are offering more spots to women.

At the University of South Florida, more than half of the 71 women on the cross-country roster failed to run a race in 2009. Asked about it, a few laughed and said they did not know they were on the team.

***

But as women have grown to 57 percent of American colleges’ enrollment, athletic programs have increasingly struggled to field a proportional number of female athletes. And instead of pouring money into new women’s teams or trimming the rosters of prized football teams, many colleges are turning to a sleight of hand known as roster management. According to a review of public records from more than 20 colleges and universities by The New York Times, and an statistics from all 345 institutions in N.C.A.A. Division I — the highest level of college sports — many are padding women’s team rosters with underqualified, even unwitting, athletes. They are counting male practice players as women. And they are trimming the rosters of men’s teams.

“Those of us in the business know that universities have been end-running Title IX for a long time, and they do it until they get caught,” said Donna E. Shalala, the president of the University of Miami.

Shocked. I’m just SHOCKED that male dominated athletic departments should do such a thing.

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…but what a game to send’em forward. James Bowman at SPM was thrilled with what he saw:

Those who repeat the canard that the WNBA is inadequate or of poor quality shall long remember September 8, 2010 — the day that this argument died and was buried.  Only the obstinate could find fault in Atlanta’s 105-93 victory over New York in the deciding Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals, a matchup showcasing two of the finest performances in WNBA playoff history. Only the insensate could fail to recognize this game’s place among the amazing playoff games this year.

The duel between Angel and Cappie wasn’t just points: check out the steals and assists. And check out Angel’s free throws – score points AND take out the other team’s players. Nice! Writes Mechelle:

Long before draft day 2009, Atlanta coach and GM Marynell Meadors was sure whom she wanted to pick. When she’d be asked about it during the college season, she didn’t just come flat out and say the name. But everything she described about the player she wanted made you think, “She has to be talking about Angel McCoughtry, right?”

Angel clearly got the upper hand, (and she also got support from teammates). From Pierre at the AJC: (The main sports page talks about “Two teams going in different directions – Braves v. Dream)

McCoughtry wore a smile on her face as big as her game Tuesday. She tugged on a white Atlanta Dream championship cap. Then she celebrated with her teammates.

Locked in a scorer’s duel for the WNBA ages with noted sharp-shooter Cappie Pondexter, McCoughtry didn’t blink, and neither did her teammates.

Check out their photos.

Anticipating the Finals, Jayda wonders if LJ is psychic:

Sometimes you get a premonition and three-time MVP Lauren Jackson had two this season that are starting to materialize. One was, of course, that this would be a special season for the Storm. The second was that the WNBA championship would go through Atlanta (pictured right by The Associated Press).

I agree with Agler — the Dreams’ mix of multiple trees and speed will be a great match up with Seattle. As he told Mechelle

“They might be the most athletic team in the league,” Seattle coach Brian Agler said of the Dream after watching the conclusion of the East finals. “What makes them so difficult to defend is they have great size around the basket, they’re one of the best rebounding teams.

“But they also have people on the perimeter who can score, great athletes. So you just can’t focus on their size, and that makes them even more dangerous because they play in so many one-on-one situations.”

Q asks: WNBA Finals Set: Who are you rooting for?

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The title threw me

because the content was not what I expected:  An opinion piece from Harvey Araton at the New York Times:  For the W.N.B.A., a Missed Opportunity to Increase Appeal

After reading it, I kinda want to say, “Thanks for the coverage and concern Harv, but really, I wonder how much you know about the WNBA and the history of the New York Liberty?”

Harvey Point 1: Bottom line: the Liberty landed a dynamic scoring guard, the best player in its 14-year history as an earnest but largely faceless franchise.

Holy crap. Does the name TERESA WEATHERSPOON ring a bell? (Not to mention lil ole Becky Hammon) Does he not remember how the Lib were the best road-team draw? How many games DID you attend, Harv? What jerseys were fans wearing?

Point 2: It could be argued that the Liberty was about a decade late in getting someone like [Cappie] and other recognizable locals and that the league made a costly tactical mistake in not doing some social engineering.

Ummm… without going into the questions of “fairness,” “oh, another reason for the haters to diss the League,” “Monday Morning quarterbacking a decade later,” etc. etc. I guess REBECCA LOBO doesn’t qualify as a recognizable local? Or Sueeee.

And, could you please, please, please give me some kind of evidence that New Yorkers (or anyone) come to games because “there’s a local” vs. “they’re finally winning and I’d like to jump on the bandwagon.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

A decade late… let me see… that would have put us in 2001. Wonder what the attendance was for the Lib back then. And who’d made it to the Championships? And, not to put too fine a point on it, why are you tsk tsking the Lib, considering how successful they were back then? Isn’t it important to grow the league as a whole?

Wouldn’t it be more useful to look at the decisions the FRANCHISE has made — since they all seem so independent of League input — to unpick what has happened to the fan base and media coverage and player selection. I mean, social engineering aside, the Lib DID have a chance at a “local” – Tina Charles. How’d she slip away, I wonder…. And they HAVE picked RU grads – Kia and Essence. What kind of impact have THEY had on and off the court?

Point 3: Only the Detroit Shock, relocated to Tulsa, has won titles out of the East.

Okay. I  know it’s a well-overlooked fact, but it still is a fact and it ticks me off that people don’t remember it. In 1997, the Eastern Conference Houston Comets won the WNBA Championship.

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Oh, oh…

*steps up on soapbox*

So, if you’re a regular reader of this blog (and it would appear that 600-800 of you are daily) you know how often I bang the “If you want coverage you have to advocate for coverage” drum.

My understanding from “those in the know” is that it’s no longer just about clicking on a link. It’s also about leaving comments.

Yah, while it’s annoying to register (use a yahoo-ish addy, kids, for that stuff) and the whole “Be the first to LIKE this” forced Facebook thing is even more annoying, it really needs to be done. ’cause if it’s not, then the coverage is going to continue to shrink.

SO — this is not really a test… think of it more as a challenge. Go to the Michelle Agins LENS link on the NY Times that features her slides from the 1998 NY Times Sunday Magazine. Leave a comment.

Right now there are 5. If 10% of the daily readers will step up, that would be and additional 60-80 people saying to Sports Editor Tom Jolly – “Hey, we want coverage and we’re willing to prove it.” Come on. I dare ya.

*steps off soap box*

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Check. It. Out. Ms. Agins! From the NY Times’ LENS section: Michelle Agins on Women’s Basketball

The simple way to tell the story is that Michelle Agins of the New York Times been shooting the Women’s National Basketball Association since its creation in 1997. Accurate enough, but the story goes deeper. You could trace it to the fact that Ms. Agins herself played hoops as a girl growing up in Chicago. It began in earnest when she started covering the women’s basketball team of the University of Connecticut, at Storrs. “I was watching them, year after year, growing into great players who had no place to go after college other than Europe,” Ms. Agins recalled. That was one reason she so enthusiastically welcomed the W.N.B.A.

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if it’s unintended?

From the Freakonomics Blog (The Hidden Side of Everything) at the New York Times: Why Doesn’t ESPN Cover Women?

Women’s sports have become much more popular in recent years.  In 2009, 3.1 million high school-aged girls and 4.4 million high school-aged boys played sports, compared to 294,000 girls and 3.7 million boys in 1971.  However, new research finds that media coverage of women’s sports has dropped considerably.  In 1989, the evening sports news shows devoted 5 percent of their time to women’s sports vs. 92 percent to men’s sports; women’s sports coverage peaked at 8.7 percent in 1999 before dropping to 1.6 percent in 2009.  ESPN’s Sportscenter devoted only 1.4% of its time to women’s sports coverage in 2009.  

Michael Messner, one of the study’s coauthors, thinks that the lack of coverage stems from fear and inertia, rather than commercial reasons: “Men are capable of doing really good sports reporting on women’s sports and a lot of men really like women’s sports. But I think there is a fear on a lot of their parts, if they don’t stay with the big three sports.”

*really long sentence alert. take a deep breath!*

I’ll be interested to see if Freakster Stephen D. — who I met when I was at the WNYC studios a while back because I asked the same question of our local NPR station — responds to my email pointing him to the NY Times writers for their answers.

On a side note, light bulb kinda thing — isn’t it interesting that the athletic gear people seem to be able to tap into the “female market” but the news media can’t?

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On the Road with the Phoenix Mercury – SLAM gets unprecedented access inside the WNBA.

“How was it?” My fiancée excitedly asked. I had just arrived back in Phoenix after spending the past week in Seattle and Los Angeles with the Phoenix Mercury, 2009 WNBA Champions. Being a lifelong fan of the WNBA, she was excited to hear the intricacies and behind the scenes scoop of life on the road for a professional athlete.

“Umm…,” I poetically replied. If I’m honest, I had no clue how to articulate the extent to which the previous week impacted me; it was that profound. I thought for a moment, took a deep breath, and continued.

“My faith and admiration for professional athletes has been renewed.”

Bold? Yep. Exaggerated? Not at all.

Reminds me of when Michelle Agins (who, interestingly enough, I just blogged about) followed the Lib in 1998. I don’t think her photos are online anywhere (help, someone?) but I still have that Sunday New York Times Magazine on my shelf.

When the WNBA started in 1997, Agins knew it was her time. The memory of walking into the Garden for the first time is still vivid. “I got chills. I had no idea it was going to be like this – all those people.” She distinctly remembers not wanting to let the players down – of needing to capture the game in a powerful and evocative way to earn the women press coverage.

Agins admits she feels an “unprofessional” closeness with the New York Liberty. It’s not surprising, especially considering her experiences with the team in 1998. Assigned to do a short photo essay, she was to travel with the Liberty for 10 days. But things started off poorly — the team was losing, the mood was poor and Cathy Ryan, the Times Sunday Magazine photo editor, phoned Agins to kill the piece. Agins pleaded for one more day.

After the call, and trapped on a plane with the team, Agins vividly recalls her desperate attempt to keep her composure. Then Kym Hampton, the Liberty center, tipped up her sleeping mask to look at her “What’s the matter?” Hampton asked. “Your coach mad at you?“

“Well,” explained Agins to Hampton “they thought I’d have better access and you guys are shutting me down. It’s been kind of embarrassing. This was my shot, and I’ve blown it.”

Hampton paused. “Well, what do you want?” Before Agins knew it, once closed doors flew open.

“It was like the team came together for me,” recalls Agins. “It was incredible. That was the one time I felt like I was no longer a photographer, I was a team member. The camera disappeared. I had this invisible ball. I had my own play I had to run in order to tell the story for the team, and that was what I did.” When she returned to the Times’ offices, Ryan had filled a room with blowups of all the photographs she’d taken in a 72-hour period. A three-page essay had expanded into a 10-page story and a Sunday Magazine cover.

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Those of us who remember Michelle Agins from her time photographing the Liberty might enjoy checking out some of her latest work for the Times. There’s more here.

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