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We Respond: NCAA Now Offering Family Travel Grants

On January 6, 2015, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)announced that it would begin offering travel grants to the families of student-athletes competing in next week’s college football championship game and those competing this spring in the men’s and women’s Final Four basketball tournaments. Families are eligible to receive up to $3,000 if their child’s team makes it to the aforementioned competitions and $4,000 if the team makes it to the championship game. Given the current pressure on the NCAA to support the athletes better, many are applauding this last minute decision.

Though the NCAA is not required to comply with Title IX, its member institutions are. Schools can receive outside funding for specific teams but the university is ultimately responsible for ensuring the equitable treatment of its student athletes. Family travel grants will be considered one of the benefits in a school’s Title IX compliance. For an in-depth look at how Title IX applies to these grants, check out Erin Buzuvis’ post on the Title IX Blog. Insights from former WSF CEO Donna Lopiano on these travel grants on her blog here. 

While the family travel grant may have begun as a well-intentioned effort from the NCAA to appease some of its harshest critics, it appears that its good intentions never took gender equity into account. These grants will be disproportionately available to families of male athletes, as women’s basketball will be the only sport eligible to receive the assistance. In essence, the families of University of Oregon’s football team (a 116-person roster) will receive financial assistance to get to Arlington, Texas, for their son’s championship game but if Oregon’s softball team makes it back to the Women’s College World Series in 2015, their families must figure out a way to get to Oklahoma City? 

Does the NCAA care about all of its student-athletes or only those who bring in multi-million dollar broadcasting contracts? This most recent decision points to the value the NCAA places on various sports programs and its student-athletes. Equality across sport and gender should be considered when making policy changes. Schools know about Title IX but do the schools care enough to comply with the legislation? Schools must push the NCAA to offer family grants equitably to student-athletes; all of us who believe in the spirit of Title IX must keep pressure on schools to ensure compliance. 

What are we doing to help? Just last month, the Women’s Sports Foundation wrote 1,275 emails to key decision makers at all Division I schools. These emails reminded schools that their athletic programs are educational in nature and that they must continue to comply with the legal requirements of Title IX, regardless of any new rule changes coming out of the NCAA.

How can you help? Spread the word on social media. Talk to your Division I institution. Make sure your university or college cares enough to get this right.

Stay tuned for more as we continue to keep a close eye on this situation.