Facing the facts of gender inequality in college athletics


Indiana University Campus Lantern with “Inspire” On a Banner

Since the passing of Title IX, by Congress in 1972, universities have opened their door to creating many opportunities for female athletes. Or at least that’s what the gender-equity law is supposed to do. As the percentage of women participating in sports have increased, males still seem to dominate in terms of participation and creating a larger fan base.

With 24 competing teams at Indiana University – Bloomington, the most popular sports teams, which also happen to be the only two teams that bring in revenue, are football and men’s basketball. Although football and men’s basketball generate a large portion of the revenue from ticket sales and TV programs, the money isn’t kept within the sport. But instead it’s the athletic department’s revenue and they decide how that’s going to be spent and which teams are going to be supported. But what happens to those sports that don’t get TV coverage or that bring in revenue, such as every female sport on campus?

“I would say outside of men’s basketball and football, which have thousands of people [who] come to their games, the rest of the men and women sports are treated fairly close, but it’s a matter of whether there is interest to some degree.” Associate Athletic Director for Budget and Finance Scott Joraanstad said. “Do we advertise the same for a field hockey match when we have 300 people come to that versus a basketball game when 16,000 people come? You know what I mean? It’s not the same.”

With women making up approximately 54% of colleges, only about 43% of females participate in college athletics. As the numbers could slowly decrease, how are women supposed to become motivated to join sports teams when they are unequally represented to the public?

“There is a lot of sexism among the people.” IU Varsity Shop Sales Associate Andrea Seitz said. “Like someone might love to watch basketball but are like ‘oh women can’t play basketball’ and you’re like ‘why would you say that?’ Like you can end up finding tickets for free [for] some games where you would never have that for the men’s game, even their exhibition game where they are playing games from people in other countries, that aren’t even in the league, those are apart of season tickets. It’s a huge difference and it is kind of interesting to see.”

While female athletes continue to fight for equality and break the societal belief that they are inferior to men, they must also try to create a bigger fan base with limited resources.

“It [has] a little bit to do with fan interest and things like that but as far as stories, and it goes the same for the student newspaper who doesn’t cover field hockey like it does men’s basketball and football.” Joraanstad said. “People just don’t care at the same level for all of our sports.”

Since about 20% of revenue comes from donors, Indiana University depends heavily on the donations to help pay for the many students receiving full scholarships, but their main focus is set heavily on those athletics that could help bring in more profit, such as football and men’s basketball.

“At the end of the day if we aren’t charging anyone to come in then we aren’t going to spend a ton of money to try to draw a ton of people in there.” Joraanstad said. “There’s really no payback for them but [for] football if we can get a season ticket holder we are going to spend a lot more money trying to get somebody to buy season tickets than we are to try to get them to come to a free water polo match.”