Recent Complaint Accuses Oregon State Athletics of Falsifying EADA Information: But Did They?

Jun 22, 2018

By Ellen J. Staurowsky, Ed.D., Senior Writer & Professor, Sport Management, Drexel University, ejs95@drexel.edu
 
The Issues
 
Did Oregon State University (OSU) knowingly and willfully provide inaccurate information to the federal government when it filed its annual Equity in Athletics Disclosure report for the academic year 2016-20171? Did the fact that OSU included participation opportunities taken up by male practice players in the sports of women’s basketball and soccer represent a violation of EADA reporting guidelines?
 
Allegations
 
In a complaint filed with the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights in Seattle, WA and the United States Department of Justice Criminal Division in Washington, DC in May of 2018, OSU officials were accused of engaging in fraudulent roster management practices (inflating women’s participation opportunities and under-representing men’s participation opportunities) for the purpose of presenting a false impression that they are meeting the substantial proportionality standard of Title IX’s three-part test of athletic participation. The complaint further argues that because female athletes receive less than their fair share of athletic opportunities, they are also denied the benefit of athletic scholarships. The complaint concludes that OSU’s EADA data provide a basis for a prima facia case “…to infer a violation has occurred and demonstrates that the College is not providing equal opportunities for enrolled female college students to play sports as determined under Title IX’s three-part test” (Rossmiller v. Oregon State University, 2018, p. 4).
 
Analysis of Oregon State’s Athletic Participation Opportunities
 
Title IX compliance in the area of athletic participation is assessed through the application of a three-part test introduced through the 1979 Title IX Policy Interpretation. Schools may achieve compliance by addressing one of these three questions:
 
Are athletic opportunities for female and male athletes offered at rates substantially proportional to their respective enrollments? OR
 
Has there been a history and continuing practice of program expansion that addresses the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex? OR
 
Can it be shown that the athletic participation opportunities as offered are sufficient to meet the existing interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex?
 
 
In an analysis of EADA data reported by OSU for the academic years 2003-2004 through 2016-2017 (see Table 1), there is an appearance that female athletes have received access to athletic participation opportunities proportional to or above the rate at which female students were represented within the student population in 11 out of 14 years reviewed.
 
Table 1. Comparison of Oregon State University Percent of Female Undergraduates to Percent of Female Athletic Participation Opportunities
 
Academic Reporting Year
 
Percent of Female Undergraduates
 
Percent of Female Athletic Participation Opportunities
 
Gap2
 
2003-2004
 
0.462773
 
0.392105
 
-7.0
 
2004-2005
 
0.46381
 
0.479323
 
+1.5
 
2005-2006
 
0.46578
 
0.499109
 
+3.3
 
2006-2007
 
0.466137
 
0.445714
 
-2.0
 
2007-2008
 
0.462257
 
0.397895
 
-6.4
 
2008-2009
 
0.45866
 
0.476496
 
+1.7
 
2009-2010
 
0.46207
 
0.462322
 
0.0
 
2010-2011
 
0.463925
 
0.460838
 
0.0
 
2011-2012
 
0.463744
 
0.506422
 
+4.2
 
2012-2013
 
0.457262
 
0.545139
 
+8.7
 
2013-2014
 
0.453472
 
0.516995
 
+6.3
 
2014-2015
 
0.461504
 
0.50805
 
+4.6
 
2015-2016
 
0.462334
 
0.511504
 
+4.9
 
2016-2017
 
0.459038
 
0.512281
 
+5.3
 
When the number of athletic participation opportunities offered to male and female athletes during that same 14-year time frame is examined, there is an early “roller coaster” pattern showing a wide discrepancy in offerings in 2003-2004 with a significant correction occurring in each of the following years, later followed by downturns and upward swings through 2011-2012. A shift occurs in 2011-2012 marking the first reporting year out of the set where OSU female athletes receive a larger number of opportunities compared to their male athletic peers. That trend line continues through 2016-2017 (see Chart 1).
 
Chart 1.
 
 
So, what does this mean? If the numbers are accurately reported, this pattern is suggestive of a school that seeks to comply with the substantial proportionality standard of the three-part test. The trend line might be interpreted as representing affirmative steps to address existing inequities demonstrating a history and continuing practice of program expansion and responsiveness to accommodating the interests and abilities of female athletes.
 
The complainant, however, pointed out that the numbers were problematic for two reasons. First, there is the issue of counting male practice players in the sports of women’s basketball and women’s soccer. For those unfamiliar, some coaches of women’s sports use practice teams comprised of men as part of a strategy to elevate the women’s game, the theory being that men are typically stronger and faster than women, thus presenting more physically challenging practices that take women farther and faster down the path of developing their sports. While this women’s sport team management strategy is not without controversy, it is provided for within the definition of who can be counted as participants (Staurowsky, 2016).
 
As per the EADA Glossary (2018), participants are defined as “Students who, as of the day of a varsity team’s first scheduled contest (A) Are listed by the institution on the varsity team’s roster; (B) Receive athletically related student aid; or (C) Practice with the varsity team and receive coaching from one or more varsity coaches”. Male practice players are not listed on varsity rosters nor are they eligible to receive athletic scholarships. However, they do practice with varsity teams, are typically given practice gear, and receive the benefit of coaching. Reflective of this understanding, OSU explained in a caveat that out of the 21 participants reported to be on the women’s basketball team, nine were male practice players while women’s soccer had seven male practice players among the 33-member team roster.
 
Second, OSU’s caveat also includes an explanation regarding the number of participation opportunities included in a category within the report called “all track and field combined”. The EADA reporting guidelines allow for participation in the sports of cross country, indoor track and field, and outdoor track and field to be reported in the aggregate. OSU offered some information to clarify the breakdown of participation in those three sports by female athletes. As it is presented in OSU’s report, 19 female cross-country runners are listed as participating in track and field with another 30 female athletes listed as competing in both indoor and outdoor track and field. If plotted out (see Table 2), such a configuration would nearly reach the total number of 118 reported in the all track combined category.3
 
Table 2. Analysis of OSU Female Athlete Participation in All Track Combined — 2016-2017
 
Cross Country
 
Indoor Track & Field
 
Outdoor Track & Field
 
Total
 
19
 
19
 
19
 
57
 
 
30
 
30
 
60
 
19
 
49
 
49
 
117
 
Analysis of Oregon State’s EADA Report — Allocation of Athletic Scholarships
 
Under Title IX, funding for athletic scholarships is expected to be distributed in a manner substantially proportional to the representation of females and males within the athlete population within one percent, barring fluctuations due to factors such as varying tuition rates by major, in-state versus out-of-state tuition and/or room and board rates, or some other non-gender related factor (Bonnette, 1990). As evidenced in Table 3., OSU has an uneven pattern of complying with that standard but has been on target during the past three reporting years.4
 
Table 3. Oregon State Athletic Scholarship Allocations — 2003-2004 through 2016-2017
 
Academic Year
 
Percent of Female Athletes5
 
Percent of AS Allocation to Female Athletes
 
Difference
 
2003-2004
 
39%
 
44%
 
+5%
 
2004-2005
 
47%
 
42%
 
-5%
 
2005-2006
 
46%
 
43%
 
-3%
 
2006-2007
 
45%
 
42%
 
-3%
 
2007-2008
 
40%
 
42%
 
+2%
 
2008-2009
 
45%
 
44%
 
-1%
 
2009-2010
 
47%
 
46%
 
-1%
 
2010-2011
 
47%
 
44%
 
-3%
 
2011-2012
 
45%
 
44%
 
-1%
 
2012-2013
 
48%
 
44%
 
-4%
 
2013-2014
 
47%
 
45%
 
-2%
 
2014-2015
 
45%
 
45%
 
0%
 
2015-2016
 
45%
 
46%
 
+1%
 
2016-2017
 
45%
 
45%
 
0%
 
The importance of determining whether athletic departments offer equitable opportunities is demonstrated in the difference in the amount of athletic scholarship money available to female and male athletes. While the allocations may be proportional to the representation of female and male athletes within an athletic department, and reflect compliance with Title IX expectations, there may still be quite a difference in the actual amount of athletic scholarship money allocated. As reflected in Table 4. below, OSU female athletes consistently received less money in athletic scholarships every year between 2003-2004, with gaps ranging between $537,530 to $1.3 million.
 
Table 4. Oregon State’s Athletically-Related Financial Aid Allocations 2003-2004 thru 2016-2017
 
Academic Year
 
Men’s Sports
 
Women’s Sports
 
Total
 
Difference
 
2003-2004
 
3189473
 
2479092
 
5668565
 
710381
 
2004-2005
 
3791313
 
2745813
 
6537126
 
1045500
 
2005-2006
 
3388286
 
2572641
 
5960927
 
815645
 
2006-2007
 
3536132
 
2611420
 
6147552
 
924712
 
2007-2008
 
4217930
 
3080859
 
7298789
 
1137071
 
2008-2009
 
4202345
 
3324897
 
7527242
 
877448
 
2009-2010
 
4086851
 
3549321
 
7636172
 
537530
 
2010-2011
 
4346928
 
3471671
 
7818599
 
875257
 
2011-2012
 
4861430
 
3542265
 
8403695
 
1319165
 
2012-2013
 
4916466
 
3888675
 
8805141
 
1027791
 
2013-2014
 
5021189
 
4148476
 
9169665
 
872713
 
2014-2015
 
5088559
 
4311608
 
9400167
 
776951
 
2015-2016
 
5524106
 
4763520
 
10287626
 
760586
 
2016-2017
 
5513426
 
4579592
 
10093018
 
933834
 
Conclusion
 
An EADA report is not a Title IX audit. Data reported in the EADA report is intended to provide a snapshot of resource and opportunity distribution based on sex within an athletic department. As such, it may or may not provide full detail that allows for a determination of Title IX compliance.
 
The OCR complaint filed against OSU takes issue with the reporting of male practice players, however, the reporting guidelines allow for such disclosure. A Title IX analysis would remove those male practice players before making a determination regarding substantial proportionality in terms of athletic participation opportunities (dropping the percent from 51% to 49.5%).
 
The complaint does raise the question of how true the participation numbers as reported are. Given that other schools have been found at times to inflate the number of female athletes participating in their programs, such a concern is not unwarranted (Willmsen, 2017a). Following an investigation by the Seattle Times in 2017, it was found that reported participation figures for women’s rowing at the University of Washington included female students who attended an informational meeting about rowing but never pursued the matter further (Willmsen, 2017a; 2017b).
 
And while OSU provided a description of how they counted their female athletes in the category of all track and field combined, the broader issue of whether a female long-distance runner is actually competing in three separate sports or simply competing in different events is one that has been raised as an area that deserves more critical attention that it has gotten (Galles & Staurowsky, 2013).
 
The pattern revealed in Chart 1 might support a closer look at how OSU has counted its female athletes over the years. The addition of 100 athletic opportunities in one year between 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 may have a sound explanation. However, that is a large addition of female athletic opportunities in a 12-month span of time. The fact that the numbers then went down by nearly 100, from 280 to 189 between 2005-2006 and 2007-2008, further fuel curiosity as does the high of 314 in 2012-2013.
 
The complaint illustrates the value of the EADA in providing information to the public to use in asking for more clarity about how decisions regarding gender equity within college and university athletic departments are reached. Oregon State will have the opportunity to respond and offer its own explanation on how it approaches the achievement of gender equity within its athletic department. Notably, in a document referred to as Build the Dam: Oregon State Athletics 2018-2023 Strategic Plan, one of the athletic department’s strategic goals is to “demonstrate inclusive excellence by advancing diversity and equity in all that we do” (Barnes, 2018).
 
References
 
Barnes, S. (2018, Feb.). Build the Dam: Oregon State Athletics 2018-2013 Strategic Plan. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Department of Athletics. Retrieved from https://static.osubeavers.com/custompages/strategicplan/
 
Bonnette, V. (1990). Title IX athletics investigator’s manual. Washington, DC: Office for Civil Rights. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED400763.pdf
 
Galles, K., & Staurowsky, E J. (2013, March). The games schools play to cheat: Is Title IX law keeping up with schools’ attempts to avoid it? Paper presented at the annual conference for the Sport and Recreation Law Association, Las Vegas, NV.
 
Rossmiller v. Oregon State University. (2018). United States Department of Education Seattle Office for Civil Rights & the United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://www.orangemedianetwork.com/read-full-complaint-here/pdf_8d532b44-676d-11e8-9332-dfa0aa2c5d9a.html
 
Staurowsky, E. J. (2016, April 2). Women’s college sport, Title IX compliance, and male practice players. Presentation at the 18th annual Northeast Atlantic Sport Psychology Conference Association for Applied Sport Psychology Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.
 
Willmsen, K. (2017a, March 5). UW women’s rowing-team numbers inflated, avoiding Title IX scrutiny. Seattle Times. Retrieved from https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/times-watchdog/uw-womens-rowing-team-numbers-inflated-avoiding-title-ix-scrutiny/
 
Willmsen, K. (2017b, August 25). UW crew program changing how it counts women under Title IX. Seattle Times. Retrieved from http://www.orangemedianetwork.com/daily_barometer/complaint-filed-with-doj-claims-osu-violating-title-ix-inflating/article_fc30b76e-676f-11e8-9539-67348bd60954.html
 
1. In the complaint, the reporting year is referenced as 2015-2016. Based on other data cited in the report, it appears that the reporting year should be 2016-2017.
 
2. The gap is the difference between the percent of females represented in the undergraduate population compared to the percent of female athletic participation opportunities.
 
 
3. The total number as plotted appears to lead to a different total number that than noted in the EADA Report (the difference between the reported 118 compared to 117). The caveat explains that the “accurate headcount” for all track and field combined is 50, meaning that while there are 117 participation opportunities, 50 female athletes competed in those opportunities.
 
 
4. As noted earlier in the paragraph, the fluctuations might be the result of non-gender related factors (tuition differences by major, etc.).
 
 
5. Note: As a definitional issue, the percent of female athletes is different from the percent of female athletic participation opportunities. A female athlete, for example, may compete in more than one sport or athletic opportunities. Since athletic scholarships as per NCAA rules are limited to tuition, room and board, books and fees, and a stipend up to the full cost of attendance, an athlete may receive only one full athletic scholarship.