Three people have referred me to John Irving’s New York Times op-ed, Wrestling With Title IX, which criticizes the proportionality requirements for Title IX that were added in 1979 and 1996. Irving’s argument against how proportionality is enforced today makes total sense to me. Not allowing men to walk on to teams to keep roster sizes down, and getting rid of sports that are fully financed by external sources (alumni and supporters) to meet some sort of proportionality goal makes no sense.

Irving makes less sense when he talks about the fact that since there are less women participating in sports, therefore proportionality isn’t important. Men have been encouraged to play sports and provided with opportunities to do so for thousands of years — women have had the same opportunties for less than a century. I wonder what the voluntary sports participation numbers are in Afghanistan?

I don’t know that equality of funding would be the right measurement, either, though. Some sports require more equipment, more coaches, and more travel than others, and so saying that men’s sports and women’s sports must receive equal funding would skew things even more. Obviously roster spots aren’t the right answer, either, though, because it gives schools an incentive to disallow walk-ons who should get the opportunity to participate if they can make it.

In other words, I don’t have a proposed solution, but I do recognize the thorniness of the problem.