Thursday, January 31, 2019

An Unanswerable Question Of Equity

TigerBlog was talking to someone yesterday about an issue that he's long considered and has mentioned here before.

What would Princeton Athletics look like now if it wasn't for Title IX?

In other words, what would women's equality in athletics look like in 2019 if the law hadn't mandated it in 1972? Would Princeton still be in the dark ages of gender equity?

The idea that Princeton would favor its men's teams over its women's teams isn't even the remotest thought on anyone's mind around here. When TB first started here all those years ago, equity was already a big issue.

Was that progress just because of the law?

It's a fascinating unanswerable question. TB would love to think that Princeton is committed to equality because it's the right thing to do, not because the law says it's required.

At the same time, it's also a cultural thing. Had the culture not changed a long time ago, before TB ever got here, would the opposite culture still be lingering?

TigerBlog sat next to Janet Morrison Clarke, a 1975 graduate and early women's hockey player, at the Ivy Football Association dinner last week. He never really got a chance to talk to her about what she thinks of all of this, but maybe he will at some point. Certainly her take, and that of the women who started athletics here, would be great to hear.

TB has heard plenty of stories through the years about the way it was in the 1970s, when there was a much different culture. Looking at it today, it's a completely different world, as women's teams are outfitted the same, have the same access to strength and conditioning and athletic medicine, have the same presence on the webpage, have the same facilities, have the same budgeting, as the men's teams.

It was not always that way.

There are plenty of women who competed here who bought their own uniforms, or could only practice at times that didn't conflict with the men's teams, or even suffered carer-ending injuries because there wasn't the same athletic training staff that there is now.

Did all of that change because of the law?

TigerBlog does a weekly podcast with Courtney Banghart, the head women's basketball coach. It was supposed to be every Tuesday during the season, and it was until last week, when it was done on Thursday. As for this week's, well, it was supposed to be yesterday, but it'll be up today. Don't worry.

During last week's discussion, TB mentioned to Courtney that he'd seen a picture of two women assistant coaches, one from the San Antonio Spurs and one from the Dallas Mavericks, and he asked Courtney if she could ever imagine having women as head coaches for men's college basketball teams. She said yes, she did, something that would have been unthinkable in the past.

Also, as TB has said often, for all of her championships, NCAA tournaments and postseason appearances, perhaps Courtney Banghart's greatest accomplishment has been the way she and her team have cultivated male fans, adults and boys. Going back before she was here, the audience for women's basketball was almost exclusively female.

Now it's very balanced, and it's very much an event when there's a game. And speaking of equality, this is the first year of the videoboard in Jadwin. The idea of doing an intro video for the men but not the women never was a thought.

The men's and women's basketball teams have combined to play three Ivy League games, by the way, all against Penn. Starting Friday night, they will play a combined 25 more, all in a 36-day stretch.

It starts with a doubleheader at Columbia tomorrow (women at 4, men at 7) and another one at Cornell Saturday (women at 5, men at 7:30).

TB is a big fan of the doubleheaders, for two reasons. First, it gives fans a chance to see both teams on the same night. Second, it gives the event staff a weekend without basketball.

TB used to cover both ends of the doubleheaders he covered at The College of New Jersey, back when it was Trenton State College, and he'd often be the only one there for the women's game. He'd love to see the Ivy League go to doubleheaders every weekend.

Of course, that asks that questions of who would play first and how would TV scheduling impact that. Would the women want to play first, or would that give the impression that those games aren't being valued?

Maybe it'll come to that one day. It would be a win for the league's basketball fans.

As for women's athletics in general, well, they've certainly grown a lot since their humble - and inequitable - beginnings.

The question is whether or not this was driven solely by the law.

TB hopes that's not the case.

1 comment:

Steven J. Feldman '68 said...

One additional aspect of the women's teams not discussed in today's blog is how incredible the Princeton women's teams are in almost every sport. What university has so many women's teams currently playing at such a successful level? I know you wrote about this in a blog last year, but this idea has been reinforced again in the current winter sports season. The hockey and squash teams are two examples. This success must be connected directly to the fact that the women's teams have great coaches, recruiting, facilities, etc.