May 23, 2002
The athletics department is close to announcing its choice of a new women's intercollegiate sport for Tulane. The final decision most likely will be made by June, according to Megan Drucker, associate athletics director for administrative services. That's when Tulane is due to send a report to the National Collegiate Athletic Association responding to concerns about gender equity in Tulane's athletics program.
"We're still looking into what sport we are going to add," says Drucker. "We will add a sport, and it's going to be in competition in fall 2003." Choosing a new sport has been an intensive process, according to Drucker. "We have a lot of options as to what it will be, but we've narrowed it down some," she says. "We're looking at the club sports that we now offer at Tulane as well as other sports not currently at Tulane that compete in Conference USA."
Among the programs the athletics department has considered are women's lacrosse, field hockey, softball, fencing, swimming and crew. "We've asked for feedback from the community and feedback from the club sports programs," says Drucker. "We've met with our intercollegiate athletics committee. It's an important decision, and the more information we have, the better."
Tulane instituted a women's soccer team several years ago after the university's first NCAA certification self-study in 1994 pointed to a lack of equity between men's and women's opportunities in the athletics program. The NCAA mandates these self-studies every five years as part of its certification process.
The 2001 self-study revealed that Tulane has yet to achieve gender equity in its athletics program, and putting men's and women's sports on an equal footing is a condition for Tulane to retain its certification. NCAA certification is crucial, says Drucker, for without it Tulane's teams cannot participate in NCAA intercollegiate championships. A key criterion of achieving gender equity is proportionality.
"Our student body is 52 percent female, so we need to be close to 52 percent female in terms of participation opportunities," says Drucker. "Last year we were at 33 percent female participation, so we have a long way to go."
Adding women's soccer helped boost the number of participation opportunities for women student athletes, and the soon-to-be-announced women's sport will boost it even more. Other moves by the athletics department to achieve the NCAA- and Title IX-required proportionality have included dropping the men's indoor and outdoor track programs (cross-country was retained) and capping the squad size of the various men's teams, mostly by limiting the number of walk-on (non-scholarship) players on each squad.
Eliminating men's track was a decision largely based on numbers, says Drucker. "Cross-country, indoor and outdoor track count as different sports," says Drucker. "And participants count each time they participate." A group of 25 athletes competing in the various sports might add up to as many as 60 participants, "which is quite a lot," she says. Tulane has progressed toward equity between men's and women's sports by constructing a soccer field, installing airconditioning in Fogelman Arena and improving locker-room facilities for women.
"We're here to serve all our athletes," says Drucker. "It doesn't matter who walks through the door--football player or woman golfer--they need to be treated equally. All our staff knows that whoever it is, they're all the same. I think we've done a very good job of making sure that message gets conveyed to everyone here."
Arthur Nead may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 email@example.com