STILLWATER, Okla. — If you subtract Oklahoma State’s success on the football field, you could argue the university has become a powerhouse in women’s sports.
Consider these national successes.
The Oklahoma State women’s basketball team won the Women’s National Invitation Tournament in April.
The Cowgirls’ soccer team advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA women’s soccer tournament for the past two years.
OSU’s women’s tennis and golf teams reached NCAA regional tournaments this year. The Cowgirls women’s equestrian team won the Big 12 title this year and finished as the reserve grand champion in the NCAA championships.
The Cowgirls’ softball team reached the Women’s College World Series in 2011.
These teams and all women’s athletic teams most likely wouldn’t have a gym or fields for practice and games without Title IX — the act passed in 1972 that created equal participation requirements for colleges and high schools that receive federal funding. Title IX applies to public and private colleges and universities because most grants and student loans are federally funded.
Though it was approved during the days of the National Organization of Women and the Equal Rights Amendment, Title IX provides opportunity instead of gender equality in athletics.
Oklahoma State women’s tennis coach Chris Young said Title IX changed the sports culture by opening college and high school athletics to females.
“It has given opportunities to female players,” he said.
It didn’t open doors. It built them, creating women’s soccer, basketball, golf, tennis and other teams where none had existed.
Larry Sanchez founded the OSU equestrian program in 1999, and has led the Cowgirls to national crowns in 2000, 2003 and 2004. They were reserve grand champions in 2005, 2006 and 2012.
“We had some success and that helped us seek out and find high-quality riders,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said Title IX didn’t just open the door to women’s athletics. It created opportunities for females to go to college and find success in business and industry.
The Department of Health, Education and Welfare developed Title IX regulations, which later evolved because of legal challenges.
Title IX requires equal participation opportunities for both genders. It also sets standards for equipment and supplies, game scheduling and practices, access to coaching, tutors, medical training and facilities, publicity and promotion, housing, dining and other support services. It also established equity in student-athlete recruiting.
The NCAA took control of women’s athletics in the 1981-1982 seasons, creating national championships for women’s sports.
In 1981-1982, 74,239 female student-athletes played on 4,776 collegiate teams. In the 2010-2011 sports year, 186,470 female student-athletes played on 9,660 collegiate teams.
Oklahoma State had 219 female student-athletes and 283 male student-athletes playing on women’s and men’s teams in the 2010-2011 season, according to the Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics website. A new report for the year July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012 will be issued this summer.
Its women’s equestrian team has the largest number of participants with 62. according to the Equity in Athletics website. Women’s tennis and golf has the fewest participants at 10 and 9, respectively.
The team awards the equivalent of 15 full-time scholarships to its student-athletes. Few receive the full scholarship. Most receive partial scholarships, Sanchez said.
The women’s tennis team awards eight scholarships, Young said.
“Oklahoma State always does the best it can for all of its sports,” Young said. “We have a great commitment from OSU.”
The university awarded nearly $1.56 million in athletic scholarships to female student-athletes, compared to nearly $2.5 million to male student-athletes in that period. OSU spent $31.58 million — $24.3 million to men’s teams and $7.25 women’s teams — to fund athletics in 2010-2011.
Oklahoma State associate athletic director in charge of compliance issues Kevin Fite reiterated that complying with Title IX doesn’t require equal spending. It opened the participation door.
Universities tailor their athletic programs to provide opportunities in sports of interest in their states and conferences, he said.
It’s why OSU fields a women’s equestrian program with 62 student-athletes.
Despite OSU’s success on court and field, women’s sports don’t generate enough revenue to cover their expenses. Some men’s and women’s sports — tennis, golf, equestrian — were never intended to produce revenue. Others — basketball, baseball, soccer, softball — produce revenue.
Only football and men’s basketball show profits.
And that’s why you can’t subtract football from the equation.
In the 2010-2011 season, football generated $33.21 million with expenses of $13.7 million. The $19.5 million profit props up the expenses of the other sports. Men’s basketball generated revenue of $12.2 million against expenses of $5.6 million.
The NCAA reports only 50 to 60 percent of Football Bowl Subdivision football and men’s basketball programs generate more revenue than expenses. The same report shows almost half of the so-called revenue sports don’t cover their own expenses.
All other sports lose money at OSU.
The Cowgirls basketball team spent $2.2 million while generating $484,621 in 2010-2011, according to the education department’s Equity in Athletics report.
Oklahoma State University doesn’t use any revenue to build athletic facilities, athletic director Mike Holder has said.
Donations are funding construction of the athletic department’s indoor practice facility and a complex for men’s and women’s tennis. The university also has started an endowment campaign to fund student-athlete scholarships.
Forty years ago, Title IX put women’s sports in high schools and colleges. It provided opportunity where it hadn’t previously existed. Today, women’s sports teams at Oklahoma State try to live up to the successes of previous generations of student-athletes.
“We give opportunity,” Young said. “The sky is the limit. Women’s athletics will only be stronger in the future.”