Tilt toward male athletes at big Florida schools violates federal law

Florida Atlantic University is not the only Florida school that falls short of meeting participation and scholarship requirements for women athletes under Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools.

Four of Florida’s seven major sports schools disproportionately award athletic scholarship money to male athletes: University of Miami, University of Central Florida, University of South Florida and FAU. 

At all four schools, the gaps between percentage of athletes who are women and scholarship dollars awarded to women are greater than 1 percent, a violation of the federal law.

In a different measure, participation opportunities for female athletes, the University of Florida had an 11 percentage-point gap between its percentage of students who are women and percentage of roster spots on women’s teams. 

The gap is based on a female student enrollment of 56 percent while women get only 45 percent of playing opportunities.

Unlike scholarship dollars, the gap by itself does not necessarily violate the law, but the National Women’s Law Center says a gap greater than 10 percentage points should raise “red flags.”

Florida State University’s 7 percentage-point participation gap would be higher if the school didn’t double- and triple-count dozens of female athletes who play multiple sports, occupying 122 roster spots.

Counting multi-sport athletes more than once is legal as long as schools disclose it, but the practice becomes controversial when schools disproportionately double- and triple-count women athletes, which can result in roster counts that appear equal but in reality disguise a far lower head count of female athletes.

The Post’s analysis also found across the nation women are far more likely than men to compete on more than one team and therefore be double- or triple-counted toward a school’s participation rates. At FSU, 329 roster spots are on women’s teams, but only 207 individual women fill them. On the other hand, 339 roster spots on men’s teams are filled by 279 men.

For years, UCF did the same thing but failed to disclose to the NCAA dozens of female athletes it counted more than once.

In the most recent year, the school reported to the NCAA that none of the 43 indoor track team members during the winter overlapped with the 45 outdoor team members in the spring. But UCF puts out a single roster for both teams that numbers fewer than 40 total athletes, and its own press releases reveal numerous athletes who competed in both the indoor and outdoor seasons.

Sometimes schools overstuff the rosters of women’s teams to meet participation requirements.

UF reported 40 women on its soccer team, but only 11 can be on the field at a time, leaving dozens of women on the bench. Among all FBS schools, the average size of a women’s soccer team is 30 players.

USF has a 43-person women’s sailing team, more than twice the national average. It does not have a sailing team for men.

UCF reported 77 women on its rowing team, though even if it had a different woman on each of the boats allowed to enter the sports’ two NCAA-recognized events, only 42 could compete. The school does not have men’s rowing.

Under the law that requires disclosure of participation counts to the government, schools can count male “practice players,” or players who train with the team but do not play in games, as participants on women’s teams.

Title IX guidance says such counting can be misleading, but it does not prevent schools from doing it.

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