Talk to someone who works in college football long enough, and they’ll tell you how confusing and complicated Title IX is. They’re not wrong. It’s one of those subjects that becomes more opaque the more you read up on it, and there’s a lot of controversy and debate in the legal community regarding its application.
Administrators and coaches insist (off the record, of course) that there’s no quick fix to Title IX issues. It’s complicated! I guess that’s why Title IX violations keep happening at major programs like LSU.
The problem I’m having is that, after years of reporting on how college football actually functions, I’ve been inured to that kind of thinking by those same people. There’s always a solution, even to complicated problems, because that really is how college football functions. If something needs to be fixed — or prevented — in order to help the sport, it gets fixed or prevented.
When football programs solicit millions of dollars from donors to build new facilities, they sell the construction arms race as a necessity, not a luxury. After all, football-specific complexes are designed to do amazing stuff, like reduce the number of minutes it takes for a player to walk from their locker room to the practice field. But what if your practice-field-adjacent facility absolutely has to have a nutrition bar in a specific spot? You build it, of course.
In college football media, we’re taught to convey the idea that such minuscule concerns are vital to on-field success. Details make champions. Great leaders focus on eliminating uncertainties, and what’s more vexing than trying to quantify a player’s actual effort? For decades coaches have guessed at how hard athletes exert themselves. But now, thanks to expensive biometric monitoring, a concept as nebulous as “effort” is quantifiable.
But of course, these are football-specific examples of spending to solve problems, and Title IX responsibilities don’t solely involve athletic departments. And since Title IX offices operate outside of athletic departments, some of my sources explain, how could athletic department officials or their donors have any influence on the greater university?
Gosh, I don’t know. There’s just no precedent for athletics influencing academics at major college programs. Certainly not enough to be considered a ubiquitous behavior. I mean, it’s not like college football wields such a ridiculously outsized amount of influence that it can change actual laws. Right?
That’s the problem: For years, college football power brokers have been telling me to tell you how accomplished they are at getting things done. This is a billion-dollar industry where the most fastidious of micromanagers are indulged, so long as they win.
Which is why I have to ask: How can Title IX be the sole unsolvable riddle for a culture of problem solvers with deep pockets and determination? If you have the requisite influence to build monuments and change policy, wouldn’t it stand to reason that Title IX issues persist not because of Title IX’s construction, but because of your lack of concern for it?
And if LSU’s Title IX department was (is?) so woefully understaffed and mismanaged, wouldn’t a tactical private donation address the current problems, so long as doing so was deemed necessary to help the program? I’m not surprised people who care most about winning football games don’t care about this, but I assumed that by now they would’ve stopped hiding from it.
Title IX is confusing, but it’s not nearly as confusing as the continued feigned exasperation surrounding it. Because all college football has ever told me to tell you is that it can fix anything, so long as it wants to.