Campus News

Female athletes and coaches question equality in Bethel athletic programs

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According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, collegiate women’s sports teams are often the victims of inequality, receiving less funding, media coverage and scholarship money. The foundation was established in 1974 by tennis great Billy Jean King. It monitors all facets of athletic competition involving women. Bethel College Athletic Director Tom Visker said the school is doing its best to maintain equality in the athletic programs, but Bethel’s women athletes say they sometimes see otherwise. dsc_5313“Not well,” said soccer player Diana Diaz when asked how Bethel was doing with equality in the athletic department. Her teammates lounging around her on the couches in the gym lobby nodded in agreement. Diaz said they know men’s basketball players get considerably higher scholarships than they do. “Financially, we’re not doing well (at achieving equality),” Diaz said, “Men’s basketball is top priority it feels like.” Katie Butler, a senior soccer player, said, “I think they do put a little more emphasis on male sports. Men’s basketball, for sure, gets a lot of funding.” Bethel is open about the financial practices of its athletic department, disclosing financial figures on the U.S. Department of Education website on its equity in athletics data page. On that page a user can search for the facts and figures of men’s versus women’s sports from a particular institution. According to Bethel’s data page, the female athletes do receive 9 percent less scholarship money. Across the country, male athletes receive $176,000,000 more in college athletic scholarships according to the Women’s Sports Foundation. It’s an issue that reaches far beyond the Bethel College. According to the data page, which was last updated by former Bethel College Athletic Director Jody Martinez in June 2014, head coaches of women’s teams have a 32 percent lower average income than head coaches of men’s teams at Bethel. “I don’t think it’s right when two people are doing the same job and one is getting paid less, because it’s like they’re a second class citizen,” said Jamie Lindvall, the head coach of the women’s soccer team. Ashley Lutz, a senior on the basketball team, said such practices are “crazy.” However, assistant coaches of women’s sports do have higher average incomes at Bethel. In addition, Bethel is doing well meeting Title IX criteria. Title IX is a U.S. Education Amendment from 1972 that is meant to prevent gender discrimination in school programs and activities. “Right now we are in compliance with all the expectations of the government as far as gender equity in sports,” Visker said. According to Lutz, the women’s basketball team meets the following Title IX requirements: equal access to weight rooms and training facilities, same quality coaches, same quality opponents, equal access to games during prime time, same quality and size lockers, same quality uniforms and supplies and the same awards and awards banquets. Bethel does, however, fail to have cheerleaders at women’s basketball games. Equal access to cheerleaders is required by Title IX. A search of Bethel’s equity in sports data page also reveals that 18 percent less money is going to recruit female athletes. While Bethel actually has more women’s sports teams, more men are participating in sports. Most of the men’s teams also have better records, higher attendance and generate more revenue. “It probably has a lot more to do with cultural ideas of what women’s sports are like rather than what they actually are like,” Visker said when asked about the reason for lower attendance levels at women’s sporting events. “A lot of people view it as a kinder, gentler version of men’s sports, which is not correct at all.” Andrew Wodrich, the women’s basketball head coach, said, “The guys’ game is faster. That’s exciting to people. The casual fan enjoys that more. I do think the women’s game is more pure. At some level, the skill sets are better. But it’s just not as flashy. There’s really good stuff in the women’s game but you have to appreciate the game a little bit more than the casual fan, I think.” Rachel Lindvall, the assistant women’s soccer coach, said, “In general, women’s sports are not as fast as men’s sports. I think that’s part of it. I think the other part of it is the media. People grow up watching men’s sports.” When asked what would need to happen for women’s sports to have higher attendance, Rachel Lindvall said, “Media is a huge part of it. Because I think that the media attention gets more people there.”
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