James McClendon, Editor-in-Chief
Michelle Davis first crossed paths with Andrew Goodemote while she was a basketball player at the University at Albany and he was an assistant coach for the men’s team. In 1997, Davis and Goodemote were hired as assistant coaches for the Utica College women’s and men’s basketball teams, respectively, and would eventually work their way up the ladder to become head coaches.
Heading into the 2002-03 season, Davis and Goodemote realized that to become successful in the Empire 8, they would need to hire full-time graduate assistants.
Both coaches sent in requests on the same day. Only one came back approved.
Davis was surprised by the decision and believed it possibly violated Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which prohibits any federally-funded educational institution from discriminatory practices on any person based on sex.
“I remember coach (Jim) Spartano telling me that I was being denied,” Davis said. “He said that he was going to fight for me because he didn’t think it was right.”
Spartano has had the advantage of coaching both men’s and women’s basketball teams at Utica College. After becoming Director of Athletics in 1982, he used his unique perspective to shape institutional policies. Spartano shared his ‘One scoop, two scoop’ analogy with all of the coaches who worked for him.
“You can’t give your son two scoops of ice cream and your daughter one,” Davis said. “That is not right.”
Davis wasn’t sure exactly what he said, however, by weeks’ end, Spartano made sure that both the men’s and the women’s basketball teams had graduate assistants for the upcoming season.
Same Sport, Same treatment
For Utica College Athletic Director David Fontaine, the idea of treating male and female athletes and coaches equally is not a foreign concept. However, in 2014, a possible Title IX infraction was brought to his attention.
The Utica College men’s and women’s hockey teams are very similar in terms of equipment and facility needs. The health risks that these athletes face are comparable. At the time, a team physician would be present for all home games for the men but not for the women.
Fontaine looked for outside guidance on this situation. He looked to one of his mentors, Valerie McMurtrie Bonnette, who co-authored the Title IX Athletics Investigator’s Manual. According to titleixspecialists.com, the manual is the primary source of the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), which holds nationwide enforcement authority for Title IX.
“Right away she guided me down the right path by saying, ‘what you provide for the men you must provide for the women in the same sport,’” Fontaine said.
The Utica College women’s hockey team now has a team physician on site for just as many home games as the men.
Not Equal but Fair
According to the NCAA, Title IX allows for discrepancies in budget between two sports which require different levels of equipment. It is not required that the same dollar amount be spent on athletic equipment, it only stipulates that the equipment is of comparable quality and condition.
Women’s Lacrosse requires its players to wear far less protective gear than men’s. For most colleges, this means that more money will be allocated to the men’s team.
“I strongly feel we are treated fairly,” said Kristin St. Hilaire, the Utica women’s lacrosse coach. “I can’t say it is equal because each sport is different. For example, men’s lacrosse has more equipment and a larger roster, so naturally their budget will be bigger.”
However, for Utica College, the total operating expense per lacrosse player was similar in 2015. According to the Department of Education, the expense per player came in at $1,293 for the women and $1,132 for the men
The men’s lacrosse team reported a total operating expense of $38,490 and the women reported $29,730. The only difference is the 11 more players the men had on their roster.
Ahead of the curve
In 2016, the Utica College baseball team had 49 players on its active roster. The numbers became so large that a junior varsity team was needed. The softball team only had 20 players and no junior varsity team.
Assistant softball coach Danielle Alpi was asked why there was no women’s junior varsity team.
“If we desired to have a junior varsity team, we would be entitled to it,” Alpi said. “We would not even have enough girls to fill a junior varsity roster.”
According to the Department of Education, in 2015 total operating expense for the baseball team was $55,973 and $25,391 for the softball team. However, the expense per player was slightly in favor of the women.
Head softball coach Pat Mineo and his counterpart Joe Milazzo, the head baseball coach at Utica College, have a very strong working relationship.
In 2016, there was only enough money in the budget for one of the fields to get new dugouts.
“Milazzo said that the baseball dugouts were okay for now and insisted that we received ours first,” Mineo said.
The two coaches have always pooled resources to save money for the school and ensure both of their teams had similar opportunities for success.
Overall impact of Title IX and what it means to you
Utica College students are required to complete an online education course on Title IX called Haven. This has led to a greater understanding of the legislation and what is being done to protect their rights.
While athletic equity is a small portion of Title IX, it is important to all college athletes. Utica College cross country runner Juliane Gagnon understands how it has affected her.
“Title IX gives me equal opportunity as a female to participate in sports and not be looked down on next to my male teammates,” Gagnon said. “I think Title IX is a good thing because for a long time females were not given the same opportunities as males and now that right is secured.”
Swimmer Emily Medley said that she never felt a time when she was treated unequally to her male counterparts. These female athletes show the shift in the college athletic culture over the last 50 years.
According to an NCAA gender equity report, women only received two percent of all school’s athletic budget in 1972 and athletic scholarships for women just did not happen. The study concluded that in 2009-10 women received 48 percent of Division I scholarship money but only 40 percent of the total budget allocated for athletics.
Alfred University, a fellow member of the Empire 8, was the focal point of many Title IX changes that were enacted around 2012.
The school did not have a baseball team but did field a softball team. Before 2012, Saxon softball home games were played at Hornell High School and the conditions were subpar. A group of parents attempted to reach out to the Athletic Director but their complaints were not addressed.
According to a 2012 press release from Alfred University, the group, which identified itself as “parents of Alfred University female student-athletes,” filed a complaint with the OCR in 2008.
“The Office of Civil Rights came in and said get it done,” Davis said. “Now they have a field on campus.”
Alfred University agreed to build a new softball field on campus during the summer of 2012 under the terms of a voluntary resolution agreement with the OCR.
One of the unintended outcomes of this investigation was it led the OCR to take a more in-depth look at the Empire 8.
Before the 2012-13 season, men’s basketball games were played at 8 p.m. on Fridays and women’s games were held in the less desirable 6 p.m. time slot.
The Empire 8 decided the best way to comply with all Title IX regulations would be to enact an alternating schedule, giving the women the primetime slot every other year.
“I like the six o’clock game better,” Davis said, “but the Office of Civil Rights doesn’t care. What is the primetime and why would the guys just have that primetime?”
This new rule gave the women’s basketball teams in the Empire 8 their second scoop of ice cream.