Disparity in Sports

Ohio University athletics by the numbers

 Geese fly overhead while Ohio Field Hockey plays Ball State during senior night on October 12, 2017.

Geese fly overhead while Ohio Field Hockey plays Ball State during senior night on October 12, 2017.

"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

– Title IX

In 2016, Ohio University had a total of 496 student athletes, 246 men and 250 women, who competed in intercollegiate athletics, according to collegefactual.com. By those numbers, it would seem as if the women and men's programs were equal, or at least offered equal opportunity. However even with equal opportunity to play, the women's teams at Ohio are still being shortchanged, literally and metaphorically. 

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The disparity is evident in money spent on the women's teams and overall interest in women's sports on campus. Even when the women's teams are performing better then the men's teams, there is an overarching disinterest campus-wide in Ohio's female athletes. 

Ohio women's soccer player Celeste Fushimi-Karns said, "For most of our games, we barely fill our stands." Fushimi-Karns has personally noticed how much more attention the men's sports receive. Sometimes their close friends won't even make it out to the games, she said. 

Bryce Hueber, another women's soccer player, pointed out the lack of free gifts for students given out at women's games. It's more often that there will be free clothes or food at men's games because it seems like the university is more focused on bringing fans there, Hueber said. It can be frustrating for female athletes when they work as hard at the men's teams, but aren't treated with the same level of importance, she said. 

Ohio soccer's Megan Niebuhr said being an intercollegiate athlete means "working towards something bigger then myself. You play for a university as opposed to a club. That's kind of a big deal." Even though there are disparities between the women's and men's teams, it still means a lot to female athletes to play for Ohio, she said.

Video clips were staged for illustrative purposes.

Overall Spending

During the 2015-2016 school year, men's athletics received 69.8% more money then women's athletics. Ohio spent $6,165,242 on women's teams and received $6,166,405 in revenue with a net revenue of $1,163. Ohio spent double on men's sports teams at  $12,976,144 and received $14,722,644 in revenue with a net revenue of $1,746,500. 

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At Ohio University, eight out of 14 Division One sports programs pay for themselves including men’s basketball, men’s football, men’s golf, men’s wrestling, women’s track, women’s basketball, women’s field hockey and women’s soccer. However, the cost and revenue of those sports differ drastically from men's to women's teams. For example, the university spent $3,029,746 on men's basketball and they made a net revenue of $919,538. Ohio U. spent  $1,388,109 on women's basketball, and the team made a net revenue of $49,268. 

The monetary disparity doesn't end with spending and revenue. Even the coaches are paid differently. There are eight head coaches for women's teams that make, on average, $77,431. There are six men's head coaches that are making almost $90,000 more then women's head coaches, with a $170,219 average salary. 

Men's teams assistant coaches almost rival the women's teams head coaches salaries, with a $69,598 average. Women's team assistant coaches make $39,653, on average. 

Even when it comes to student aid, women's teams are  shortchanged. Men's teams received $15,183 in sports-related student aid in 2016, while women's teams received $10,600 – almost $5,000 less – in sports-related student aid.

 

Comparing Fall Season Sports

OU's women's soccer team finished their season with a 7-10-3 record. Field hockey finished with a 4-12, while football finished their season with an 8-4 record. Home games for each team are typically scheduled on different days and times to accommodate fans that, in theory, would like to see games in each sport. 

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Ohio University has nine division one women’s sports teams and six division one men’s sports teams. Even though there are more women’s than men’s sports at OU, the women’s sports still go mostly unnoticed. A football game might draw more than 20,000 people, but a soccer game might not break 300 spectators, and a field hockey game rarely draws more than 100.

"I sometimes do feel like we are under-appreciated because women do put in as much effort as men," said women's field hockey player Illona Hartman. "You can really notice the lack of interested in women's sports when you go to the basketball games, because for men's games, multiple levels of the Convocation Center will be full, and for women's they will barely fill the bottom level, Hartman said. 

 

Men's and Women's Basketball

Some might think a winning season is what draws crowds, but that's not always the case when it come to comparing sports played by opposite genders. Last year, men's basketball only had two more home games than women's. The women's team ended their season with a 22-10 record, which was almost identical to Ohio men's basketball's record of 20-11. So, you would assume with such similar seasons that their attendance records might be similar as well. 

That's where you would be wrong. On average, men's basketball games brought in almost three times the number of spectators as women's games. Men's games attracted about 6,000 spectators, while women's only drew about 2,000. 

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More recently, both the men's and women's basketball teams had home games the first weekend of December. The men played Coppin State on Friday night, December 1, and the women played on during the day on Saturday, December 2. The men's Friday night game had a crowd of 4,137 people. The next day, the women had a crowd of just 375 for their game against IUPUI. This is a very typical attendance disparity that can be seen every weekend that both men and women play at home. The women's team will average around 400 spectators at those games, while the men's team will average around 4,000. 

 

Baseball and Softball

 Tyler Finkler runs to first during the Ohio vs MSU game on March 21, 2017. Ohio lost 1-3 to MSU.

Tyler Finkler runs to first during the Ohio vs MSU game on March 21, 2017. Ohio lost 1-3 to MSU.

 Ohio Bobcats Taylor Saxton celebrates Ohio's comeback during softball's double header vs Toledo. Ohio won both games on March 25, 2017. 

Ohio Bobcats Taylor Saxton celebrates Ohio's comeback during softball's double header vs Toledo. Ohio won both games on March 25, 2017. 

Ohio Softball won 11 more games then Ohio Baseball last season, finishing with a 42-18 record. However, Ohio Baseball's attendance averaged 484 people while Ohio Softball only averaged 303 people. Even with a better team, the women's team couldn't draw larger crowds. 

Like the basketball teams, baseball and softball have similar disparities during home games on the same weekend or day. Regardless of the team the are playing or how well the team is performing, the men's team will always have a larger crowd at their games. 

Baseball and softball both played at home on March 24 and 25 and on April 8, 9, 21 and 23. Baseball had a larger crowd at every game, even though softball won games on five out of six days, and baseball only won games on two out of six days. During these six home games, baseball averaged 804 people per game, while softball only averaged 588 per game.

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In most aspects of Ohio sports, the men's teams are favored regardless of how the teams are performing. Even when it comes to the media, the female athletes feel like they are not getting equal amounts of attention. More specifically, Hueber feels that Ohio Athletics does more for the men's sports, including offering more free gifts at games, and creating more promotional materials. Area news media pays more attention to men's sports, she said. 

Celeste Fushimi-Karns agreed. "They have little fast facts where they do a 60-second interview with athletes, and I've noticed they've only done it with male sports." Women's teams already have a hard enough time getting their close friends to come to their games and the lack of media coverage doesn't help their attendance numbers, she said.

 Posters are hung on the stands for Ohio Field Hockey senior night while they play Ball State on October 12, 2017.

Posters are hung on the stands for Ohio Field Hockey senior night while they play Ball State on October 12, 2017.

"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."
– Title IX