BY: MICHAEL NOLAN
I am the third of seven children. The first five are boys and the last two are girls. My two sisters, Catherine and Grace, are two of the toughest and most well rounded individuals I have ever met (I would like to think this is because they have five older brothers). Both are tremendous lacrosse players, with Catherine playing at Siena College in Albany, and Grace being recruited to play by among others: Penn, UCONN, Sienna, and Syracuse (my alma mater).
In a way I am amazed that Grace is being recruited by Syracuse. It reminds me how far the University and the country have come in the 40 years since Title IX was originally enacted. When Title IX was first passed, Syracuse University developed a women’s athletic program. However, University regulations required that the women’s teams “…buy their own uniforms and tape numbers on the back.” [1. The Daily Orange Editorial Staff, Title IX resonates for teams 40 years later, http://dailyorange.com/2012/10/title-ix-resonates-for-teams-40-years-later/ (Feb 12, 2013).] Seemingly, these were tremendously trying times for female athletes. After starting the program with five women’s teams, the number of teams was increased to nine after a suit was filed against the University by a class of women alleging discrimination in violation of Title IX. [2. Boucher v. Syracuse University, 164 F. 3d. 113, 116 (2d Cir. 1999).]
Syracuse University became the first to win “…a Title IX lawsuit filed by women athletes, based on its successful claim of having a continuing practice of program expansion for women.” [3. Mary Dee Wenniger, Syracuse University Wins First Title IX Lawsuit, http://www.wihe.com/viewArticle.jsp?id=17846 (Feb. 12, 2013).] Today, with full funding from the University and the NCAA, women’s sports teams at Syracuse University outnumber men’s 11-7. [4. Syracuse University Athletics, www.suathletics.com (Feb. 12, 2013).] On a national level, there are now 9,274 women’s intercollegiate teams, the highest number in the history of college sports. [5. R. Vivian Acosta, Ph.D. and Linda Jean Carpenter, Ph.D., Women in Intercollegiate Sport: A Longitudinal, National Study Thirty-Five Year Update, http://acostacarpenter.org/AcostaCarpenter2012.pdf (Feb. 13, 2013).]
My question is: how will the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit against the NCAA affect women’s athletics? Essentially, O’Bannon and a class of former men’s division 1 football and basketball players are suing the NCAA for misappropriation of their image and likeness and turning an enormous profit. If the class prevails, ideally a trust would be set up to distribute money to these athletes upon graduation. [6. Michael McCann, O’Bannon expands NCAA lawsuit, http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/writers/michael_mccann/09/01/obannon-ncaa-lawsuit/index.html (Feb. 13, 2013).]
I understand the sentiments of the class. The NCAA does make a killing off of these athletes. Let us not forget, however, that these two sports essentially fund the rest of college athletics. In following the O’Bannon case through the courts, it is imperative that women’s athletics be kept in mind. If athletes are to be paid, there must continue to be support for women’s athletics to allow dreams to be fulfilled.
Although I grow increasingly envious that my sisters are both far superior athletes than I ever was, or ever will be, I find it necessary to thank those who have paved the way through their struggles, trials and tribulations. If not for these influential people and their contributions in the legal field and on athletic fields, my sisters may not have been presented with such great opportunities. Being incredibly proud of my sisters and their accomplishments, I thank everyone that worked so hard for equality in athletics.