Row, row, row

Women who’ve never rowed a boat can get crew scholarships to universities with football programs, thanks to Title IX, which requires an equal number of scholarships to male and female athletes.

Ohio State elevated its women’s rowing program to varsity status nine years ago. Now, as the men’s club team runs programs such as Rent-a-Rower ($50 for four hours of chores like raking leaves, cleaning garages or moving furniture to raise money for equipment and travel), the women are fully funded.

The team has an N.C.A.A. maximum 20 scholarships, and 16 women receive full rides. The remaining money is divvied up among other rowers. The team’s annual budget is nearly $900,000.

”In the fall, rowing is a sport that you carry 70 to 80 people, then in the spring at least 46 kids get out and race,” Ohio State’s athletic director, Andy Geiger, said. ”It’s an expensive sport, but it’s worth it. It really does help offset football.”

I don’t see the justice in denying athletic opportunities to male athletes while begging and bribing women to try sports in which they’ve never had any interest.

About Joanne


  1. John from Ok says:

    Will somebody either back me up or correct me on this:

    It seems that every year we hear more and more how college football and hoops are “all about the money”. Whether it’s restructuring the ACC, or not giving stipends to players, or the Notre Dame television contract, critics are always complaining about how money is ruining college sports.

    But it seems to me, that the “profits” from mens football and basketball go straight to womens athletics. I remember Donna Shalaila explaining why Miami U. had to join the ACC; that despite the massive profits generated by Miami football, the total balance sheet for athletics was zero.

    In other words, all of those Gatorade commercials, tax deductible box seats, etc., are only paying for a large number of women to go to college for free, provided those women have the necessary athletic ability. And I have met a few high school girls and their mothers who are counting on athletics, not academics, to send them to college.

  2. Cardinal Fang says:

    But a lot of collegiate football programs lose money, often a lot of money.

    I read the article Joanne links to, and I got a different impression than she did. The article talks about some young women who were enticed to try a new sport and who loved it and were extremely successful at it. Ms. Purcell started crew, lost 60 pounds, is now on one of the top teams in the country and is thinking about the Olympics. This is bad how? I could understand Joanne’s point if crew were some namby-pamby imitation sport, but it isn’t. It’s difficult and strenous, and the athletes train hard. What’s the problem?

    A top collegiate football program carries dozens of kids who will never play a minute of a game. The rowers, on the other hand, actually get to compete. Why is football better?

  3. The whole problem could be solved if professional teams took people straight out of high school, and college athletics went back to being the amateur sports they used to be. Then there probably would be equal numbers of men and women that wanted to do sports in college and no recruiting would be necessary.

  4. Cardinal Fang says:

    And another thing… I bet those female crew jocks are more likely to graduate than male football and basketball players on scholarships. What’s more scandalous, giving crew scholarships to talented and promising young beginners, or having a team full of basketball players who can’t read?

  5. superdestroyer says:

    women in sports covers a number of issues that the article did not really address.

    1. Title IX does not require equal number of scholarships but representatives numbers of varsity athletes. Thus, if the football team has 80 scholarship athletes and 20 walk-ons and the university is 60% females, then the university is requires to have 150 females athletes.

    2. Athletics do not make the university anything but may make an athletic department some money since at most universities the athletic department is separate. In reality, the athletic department costs every student $100 per year in hidden student fees and it costs the tax payer money to fund stadiums.

    3. Female athletes graduate at a higher rate if for no other reason that they are much more white and middle class than football and basketball players. Mia Hamm, the poster child for women’s athletics, came from an upper middle class family and grew up in the suburbs. Look at the ESPN coverage at NCAA softball, the teams are almost totally white.

    4. Women generally do not walk on to teams. This is the first article that even mentions that women are willing to walk on to a team. The athletic director at the University of Maryland stated that every one of her female Lacrosse players would quit the team if they were not on scholarship.

  6. Walter Wallis says:

    but i can’t eat strwaberries. They make me break out in hives.

  7. Walter Wallis says:

    Or – in light of the report just out that says Stanford has not yet eliminated discrimination against women, do away with the concept of women’s athletics just as we eliminated the concept of women’s job want adds and let anyone who can make any team play. Ladies, this here thing is a “Urinal.”

  8. Bob Hawkins says:

    Don’t look at ticket and TV revenue. Look at alumni contributions and student applications. Every time a score is reported, you’re getting publicity. Alumni are reminded you exist. High school kids learn your name.

    College presidents don’t like sports. It’s strictly a cost-benefit calcullation.

  9. superdestroyer says:

    Does Stanford or Cal-Berkley, Tennesse, or Virginia really need to spend student services fees so that the football team can encourage more applications? Does Johns-Hopkins or Uof Chicago get fewer applicants because they do not have a football team?

    Also, success in sports does not affect contribuations to the university, it just increases contributions to the athletic department which at most Division I schools is a separate not-for-profit organizations (remember how Penn State claims that Joe Paterno is not a state employee because the athletic department, not the university, writes is pay checks and puts his compensation program together.

  10. Cardinal, why don’t we mine for undiscovered Olympic caliber athletes by pressing all college students into sports? It reminds me of the sort of things you used to hear when East German Olympic team came on tv.

  11. Cardinal Fang says:

    Far better to mine for undiscovered Olympic-caliber athletes among students who have already been admitted to your university and are therefore academically qualified, than to pay athletes to come to your university for four years, play ball and then drop out.

  12. Joanne, usually the women aren’t recruited for rowing positions but as coxswain, because of women’s tendency to be smaller and lighter in weight than men. You are correct, though, in that it is a way of gaming the system.

    Cardinal Fang, I can see by your post that you are not familiar with athletic endeavors. A person, male or female, is unlikely to be an “undiscovered Olympic athlete.” It takes years and years of dedicated practice to master a sport–even one as simple as running fast over a short distance.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Liz, did you actually read the linked article? They are recruiting women to row, not to cox. (Well, perhaps also to cox, but you need eight rowers and only one cox in an eight.) Amanda Purcell, the young woman in the article who was recruited as a freshman and who now says she’s thinking about the Olympics, is most definitely not a cox, unless there are now 5’9″ 190 pound coxes who hold oars.

    And yes, it takes years of practice to master a sport, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start those years as a college freshman. Ms. Purcell will have been rowing for six or seven years by the time of the next Olympics if she keeps on, and she’ll only be about 24.

    There’s nothing new about recruiting young women to try crew; since there are not very many opportunities to try crew as a high-schooler, lots of women start in college. I was a swimmer in college, and twenty years ago, when I entered Stanford as a tall muscular graduate student, the women’s crew team tried to recruit me at sign-up time. The difference is that then crew was a club sport, and now it’s a varsity sport with scholarships.

  14. P. K. Pruitt says:

    I know this will not be a popular opinion. I don’t think universities should give ANY athletic scholarships. I’ve always thought that universities were educational institutions. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be collegiate sports. I’m all for universities providing extracurricular activities but their primary mission is to educate their students. Let the NFL, NBA, or whatever other professional sports program, recruit high school students and pay their tuition. If the athlete doesn’t have the mental capacity to complete a degree, send them to a trade school. My point is that colleges should focus on academics and the scholarships that they give out should be based solely on academics.

  15. Walter Wallis says:

    Right on, P.K.
    [hope that doesn’t ruin your standing anywhere]

  16. Cardinal Fang says:

    I agree, P.K. Let the NFL and the NBA run their own minor leagues instead of expecting the colleges to do it. Baseball and hockey have minor leagues; let football and basketball do the same.

  17. Jennifer says:

    Do you also beleive that scholarships for drama students, fine arts students, or those based on ethnicity should be eliminated? You can’t really define any of those bases as strictly academic.

  18. I’m with P.K. on this one. The current system forces kids who are not college material, and in many cases have no interest in college, to attend a university. Right now there is a huge discussion about the U.of Houston and how it has lowered its standards to remain competitive on the football field. I say let them go play professional sports if they want and leave the college teams to the real college students.

    I have to be honest and say I’ve never understood the appeal of college athletics to people who have never been to college, or don’t have a child participating in the sport. When Alabama won the NCAA championship 10 or 11 years ago there were people running around with national championship t-shirts who couldn’t have found Alabama on a map of the US so why should they give a flip about the U. of Alabama football team?

  19. Walter Wallis says:

    Don’t some countries solve this “problem” with athletic clubs that do not associate with any other institution?

  20. Jennifer, drama and fine arts are academic.

    P.K., your idea is more popular than you think.

  21. People running around with U of Alabama shirts that couldn’t find Alabama on a map: Some people just want to be associated with a winner.

    I’m with PK on sports scholarships. As a non-fan, the grossly excessive amount of attention paid to sports always annoys me – but the hypocrisy of paid “amateurs” annoys me far more, and that’s what people on sports scholarships are. It not only gives the NFL and NBA a free farm system, but it lets the farm teams put a low ceiling on the athletes’ pay. (Or maybe full tuition isn’t such low pay, but judging by the abysmal graduation rates, many of these athletes don’t seem to value it much.)

  22. Ken Two says:

    I live near the coast and the sport a number of kids in the neighborhood pursue is sailing. It’s opened the door for some to the Naval Academy and a few Ivys. But the sports program at the high school our kids attend goes off the charts in wetting the appetites of parents for college scholarship help.

    One of the families we know from church made a decision to send their daughter to a college solely on that school’s offering of a scholarship for horseback riding. Yep, they have a women’s riding team and that was a good enough reason to enroll.

    Sports, on all levels, is the tail wagging the dog. It’s sort of like the recently repeated Bill Cosby quote about parents willing to spend $500 on a pair of sneakers, but not $200 on Hooked on Phonics… just taken to a higher plateau.

  23. “Sports, on all levels, is the tail wagging the dog.”

    Is this true at MIT..? Northwestern Oklahoma State..? Minot State..? Montana Tech..? Linfield..?

    The commonality of all of these schools is that they are not Division I schools… In fact, I would guess that most college football players are not the worthless wastes of academic flesh that everyone likes to bash… Rather, most are at small schools and have almost zero chance of making an NFL roster…

    The argument for eliminating college scholarships for extra-curricular activities can be made, but not based on your misconceptions of what the average athlete looks like…

  24. And back to the original post, it’s pretty ridiculous that schools have to search so hard to find any girl to fill out the women’s sports teams, all so they can “offset football.”

    It really gives credence to the notion that females don’t get into sports the same way that males do…

  25. Superdestroyer says:


    Under Title IX, for the Division IAA and below schools to have a football team, they also have to have an equivalent number of female varsity athletes. Thus, the football players at a Good Division II school like Northern Colorado are probably similar to the student body as UNC as a whole, the mere existence of the a football team requires UNC (so similar small school) know has to have a women’s football team, volleyball team, swim team, tennis team etc to offset the number of male athletes. Everyone of those women’s teams costs money but generates no revenue.

    An women do not get into sports the same as men if for no other reason than minority women (blacks and Hispanics) have such a low participation rates.

    On another issues, one of the reasons many people dislike big time college athletics is that the teams are overwhelmingly black and most of the athletes are out of place on a college campus. If women’s athletes had the same racial makeup as Div I college football, I doubt if so many soccer moms in the suburbs would be supporting it.

  26. In addition to creating women’s teams, universities are eliminating or defunding men’s teams in no-revenue sports such as wrestling and crew. One problem is that many liberal arts colleges are now more than half female in enrollment so they’re supposed to have more female than male athletes. This has really hurt men’s sports (other than football and basketball) at universities that attract a lot of older students, often women returning to finish a degree.

  27. Cardinal Fang says:

    It turns out that even at colleges that don’t offer athletic scholarships, the athletes are underqualified academically compared to other students: they come in with worse academic records and scores, they take easier majors, and their graduation rates are lower.

    But, you say, what about artists, musicians and other talented students? Aren’t they also academically less qualified than other students? Well, no, they aren’t. The best violinist in Massachusetts still has to be academically qualified to get into Harvard. The best left wing in Massachusetts doesn’t.

    Bowen & Levin’s Reclaiming the Game discusses this issue. “…[T]he authors are able to analyze in great detail the backgrounds, academic qualifications, and college outcomes of athletes and their classmates at thirty-three academically selective colleges and universities that do not offer athletic scholarships. They show that recruited athletes at these schools are as much as four times more likely to gain admission than are other applicants with similar academic credentials.”

  28. Cardinal Fang says:

    Instead of defunding men’s crew and men’s gymnastics, colleges should get rid of all the athletes who aren’t academically qualified and keep the gymnasts and rowers who can pass their classes.

    Joanne objects to Ohio State’s women’s crew team recruiting students who are already at Ohio State, and who therefore qualified for admission. This is backwards. Why attack real scholar-athletes, while defending Ohio State’s football team, which is filled with semi-professional athletes who aren’t scholars and who wouldn’t be at Ohio State if they weren’t football players?

    Ohio State is a college, not a minor league sports franchise. It’s supposed to be educating, not developing football players for the NFL.

  29. Tim from Texas says:

    Yes, other countries solve the problem with athletic clubs. It won’t happen here. Most people don’t know, and I suppose don’t care,that only two universities in the entire country get into the black each year with their sports programs. Moreover, they barely get into the black. The other universities’ sports programs bleed profusely into deep red.

    However, they maintain that the programs make money and that it’s good for the schools. It’s good only for the few.

    College, professional, and middle/high-school sports pick our pockets in almost uncalculable ways and manner. We are suckers. We love the situation so much it masochistic. But alas, I suppose one could say it’s just our nature.

  30. Cardinal Fang says:

    Tim, do you have a reference for the claim that only two schools are in the black for athletics?

  31. Superdestroyer says:

    The number that US News and Sports Illustrated usual uses is about 10 universities make it into the black in sports and that usually requires huge donations, seat licenses, luxury boxes, student athletic fees, etc. It also does not count the tax payer contribution for stadiums and areas.

    The Sporting News one time reported that the average Big 10 women’s basketball team loses over 1 million dollars a year.

  32. Bob Diethrich says:

    I had always thought that football was EXEMPT from the quota numbers in comparing mens and female athletics, because of the size of its roster as compared to baseball, basketball, soccer etc.?

  33. Bob…

    To the contrary… Football is essentially the cause of the movement of comparing male and female athletics, because of the size of its roster as compared to baseball, basketball, soccer etc…

  34. Tim from Texas says:

    Yes, Cardinal Fang, however, I can’t recall his name nor the title to his book which,if my memory serves me correctly,was published aprox. 9 months to a year ago. He was the president of Harvard for 25 years. He retired, I believe, a year or so before he wrote the book. He was interviewed by Charlie Rose on his program, of course, just after the book reached the book shelves. I didn’t buy it. Since, I suppose, I am rather a “cheapskate”, I read it at a Barnes and Noble store in one of its secluded corners.

    At any rate, he writes about how this countrys’ universities are held hostage to their money losing sports programs. He laments that he doesn’t see any way out of it now. In other words, as Confucious or someone said: “There’s no such thing as half-pregnant.”

    However, his writing of the sports dilemma, was, for the most part, a lead into an explanation of what is occurring now at universities in respect to the privately funded, mainly by huge corporations, research programs which are going the same direction. Therefore, the book is a warning against allowing to happen, again to universities and the public, what has happened in the universities existent sports fiasco. A fiasco for the many,but a terrrific boone for the very few.

    There exists other sources for this kind of information. The universities publish this kind of information, some truthfully, the University of Montana leaps to mind at this moment, but most hide the true costs of their sports programs. I suppose, for those who must have hard figures in front of them before they can arrive at a conclusion about it, should know that it won’t be easy to wade through the swamp of education and university funding, money gathering, and creative bookkeeping.

    To make a correction to my previous post, and I think my memory serves me correctly, he argues that 2 universities actually got somewhat into the black and that there were 4 others that got to the edge, however, not every year. Most universities, he argues, and colleges for that matter, lose good to great amounts of money each year with their sports programs.

  35. Wow! When I read this article there were 34 comments! I think this is the most I have seen on this blog! Joanne has hit a nerve hasn’t she?
    I can see both sides of the issue, I think, though Title IX was just beginning when I was in college. An athletic scholarship paid for two years of my education, but I realised that I wasn’t going to make it with my athletic ability and that academics were the way to go. I enjoyed playing a sport in college and it was hard to juggle practice, trips to games, classwork and studying, but it can be done.
    I would like to know how many of those Div. I student-athletes actually make it in the pros. Are we debating over just a few people? I also agree that the NFL should have to support the farm system that college football is (in the NBA h.s. students can go direct and there is talk of NBA farm teams).
    Living down the road from a very large university, I remember reading that 17 football players were drafted by the NFL. I don’t know how many graduated or were seniors (30?). What is typical of this statistic?
    One thing that I notice-the increase in women in the colleges (a trend this site has comment on) has probably been the cause of the lose of men programs. Interesting. Anybody done the research out there?
    Finally, where’s the beef? This site quoted that 50% of students will not graduate from college. Just why all the grief about the athletes?

  36. Cardinal Fang says:

    Tim, could you be looking for a book by William Bowen, former President of Princeton? In addition to Reclaiming the Game (2003), which I referenced above, he has also written The Game of Life(2000). Both of these are about collegiate sports, and both rely on a huge database of 90,000 students who attended college in the ’50s, ’70s and ’90s.

  37. Tim from Texas says:

    Yes,Cardinal Fang, could be, but I don’t remember the subject matter, style and approach as the same. However, since I have practically two toes already into the grave, my memory does fail me from time to time. I will look into it. Thanks.

  38. On the subject of athletic depts losing money, I was told this story by a fellow Louisiana native after I left LSU so I can vouch for its accuracy.

    Seems the professor at LSU hand’t received a raise in 4 years and were going to strike. The good old athletic dept jumped in with $1 million dollars to save the day and give professors a bonus, enough to keep them happy for a year. Lost in all the kudos for the athletic dept was the fact it had a million dollars to spare while the rest of the university was cutting services and raising tuition.

  39. Tim from Texas says:

    Mike, I can’t argue from any facts that the athletic dept. at LSU itself didn’t hand over the million bucks. However, from my readings into the bookkeeping of universities and some experience with how money is moved around at universities, I would suspect that the money came from the President’s discretionary fund or perhaps taken or moved temporarily from some other source. The cool million was probably earmarked for the athletic dept, for I’m sure they needed it. They were told, or knew, it was good politics to wait a while for it. Moreover, I would argue they didn’t have to wait too long.

    No facts here to back my statements,as I’ve already written. However, without any facts, I would still give 20 to 1 odds it happened in some form or fashion as I have related here, for we are speaking of Louisiana. Any other state, I would have to lower the odds a few, but just a few, because we are speaking of sports.

  40. Cardinal Fang says:

    Is Universities in the Marketplace your book, Tim?

  41. Tim from Texas says:

    Yes, Cardinal Fang, that’s it. This time, I will check it out from the library and read it again carefully to check my memory, for when I read it at B&N, I speed read it to avoid any embarrassment. Thanks again!

  42. You may recall that the Administration had a chance to fix Title IX last year and blew it. I’m afraid the Republicans were too timid to take on the feminist extremists.

  43. Another Damned Medievalist says:

    First, I agree with Cardinal and PK — but then I’m an Arsenal fan, and the English Football Association system is incredibly sensible in my eyes.

    I can’t agree with the anti-Title IX tirades, though. I think one of the reasons many women don’t come in on scholarships is that they haven’t had much experience in sports. I know that my sports experience was limited to three-week stints in gym class. I came from a single-parent, all female hosehold, and there wasn’t time for sports, even if there had been someone around to model that kind of behavior. I took up bicycling in college and loved it, although I never took it past about 120 miles a week commuting and pleasure riding. If someone had offered to teach me a sport and pay for it, though, I’d be all over that opportunity! I think, even today, there are a lot of girls out there who haven’t had time for extracurricular sports. Many work, and there are still fewer opportunities for girls to compete in high school than for boys. If we can justify universities playing on what are often pipe dreams of under-educated young men who are good enough for college but will never be pro superstars, why not offer young women the opportunity to add to her skills, overall health, and arguably to her long-term quality of life, for those reasons and because it helps fund their education, because we know there won’t be much of a paycheck at the end!


  1. In a Row About Title IX

    Joanne Jacobs links to this NYT piece about women’s collegiate rowing. The number of women’s rowing programs has burgeoned since 1997, in large part because rowing requires a lot of participants, thus helping to set off men’s football scholarships for