Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Running Out of Resources

First I would like to apologize for my delay in writing. If you follow my blog, you know it's one of my 11 goals in 2011 to update weekly, and clearly I have already broken this goal. (Amanda and Marissa may be happy though, because this does mean that at least one round of drinks is on me at the end of the year.) That said, I'm not discounting this goal, and I still want to update weekly for the rest of the year. I feel, quite often, like grad school has swallowed me whole, but I'm surviving and enjoying it, I swear! It's just far more work than I had ever anticipated.

Well tomorrow is officially Marine Corps Marathon registration day, and I am very excited. This will be my second experience with 26.2 miles, and I am thinking it may even be better than my first. Training for Philly was certainly a challenge — blood, sweat, and tears all included — and I expect MCM to top my experience, since it is, after all, the People's Marathon. MCM is the 4th largest marathon in the country, with over 30,000 runners. Plus, I'll have the benefit of training in the area since I live close to the course. This year I will be running with friends and family, making it that much better.

Since my time off from Philly, I've had some time to reflect on how much I've grown to love running. Despite the challenge of working and going to school full time, I've been able to fit running into my schedule (although not as much as I'd like). After a great run, I feel so much more focused than I did beforehand. I love it.

Which is why I've been following a recent story from University of Delaware, my alma mater, about the cutting of the men's cross country team in the name of Title IX. Starting this fall, the team will now be considered a club sport, not varsity. Title IX, most famously known for promoting women's equality in sports, includes a standards that requires varsity sports to offer funding in proportion to the number of male and female students. The university is using this reason to cut the cross country team, and to no longer allow runners to compete at a varsity level, according the university newspaper, The Review.

As I started to read further into this story, I was interested in why it was the cross country program, whose indoor team was also made a club sport in 2008, that is being bullied by Title IX. As a student at Delaware, our football team was the golden standard of sports, despite the fact that it is Division I-AA, and not even Division I. Our basketball team has bordered on atrocious since before I was even on campus, and I still can't recall ever talking to a person who actually attended a game. Jeff Pearlman's Sports Illustrated column cites some of the numbers regarding the football team: 103 total members on the roster, four quarterbacks, 10 running backs, 14 wide receivers, 16 defensive backs, and four kickers. Yes, four kickers. And amazingly, it is the 12-person total roster, with a budget of $20,000 and no scholarships that is cut. Pearlman also cites that the attendance at Delaware Stadium for the I-AA semifinals, in which Delaware played, was only 10,317 — in a stadium that can fill up to 22,000. Football isn't a great "money-maker" for the university, and neither is basketball — arguably the two most popular college sports. So what is the purpose of cutting an entire program of one of the least expensive sports, when the larger, and over-rated programs suffer no consequences?

I wonder if in the the future this will come back to hurt the university. There will be less interest among students as they no longer have an option to run at the varsity level. It's possible that other students may not consider Delaware as a formidable option because the sport they love may run the risk of being cut as well.

As a woman, I understand the reasoning for Title IX, and I am grateful for laws that do promote equality. Women's sports are important. But as a runner, I have serious qualms with the idea to cut cross country. Why couldn't the football team scale back its roster? No, running is not the most exciting or the flashiest sport — but those who do it are incredibly dedicated and do have a deep love for just getting outside and moving. Mostly, I feel for the students who came to Delaware to be a part of a great program, only to lose the opportunity to do so. It may be too late for the men's cross country team, but I do hope that in the future the university finds a better way to enact the guidelines of Title IX.

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