Five decades after women began playing intercollegiate sports at the University of Colorado, the Buffaloes continue to strive for excellence with gender equity.
On Thursday, the 50th anniversary of Title IX legislation, CU athletic director Rick George and senior associate athletic director Jill Keegan presented the athletic department’s updated four-year gender equity plan at the Board of Regents meeting.
Title IX, signed into law on June 23, 1972, was designed for equity in education among men and women. It covers a wide range of educational areas, from kindergarten through higher education, and includes many non-athletic aspects. Title IX has been well known, however, for providing equal opportunities for men and women in athletics.
CU and other colleges and universities are expected to be in compliance with Title IX and schools are required to keep and provide data on equity efforts.
Every several years, CU updates its gender equity plan (GEP), with the latest being provided on Thursday. The 66-page report includes statistical data on CU’s equity in regards to participation, benefits, coaching, publicity and more.
One of the main requirements for Title IX is for schools to provide equal opportunity for male and female student-athletes “substantially proportionate” to undergraduate enrollment rates.
For the 2020-21 academic year, 54.10% of CU’s undergraduate students were men and 45.90% were women. In athletics, 52.46% of the participants were men, with 47.54% being women. CU is also Title IX compliant in regard to scholarship dollars proportionate to participation rates.
The GEP report was developed by a 20-member task force, which includes George, Keegan, other athletic department staff members and coaches, faculty and two regents.
The group included 13 subcommittees, each led by two or three task force members. The task force members investigated several areas to not only make sure CU is Title IX compliant, but to address any issues while continually striving to improve gender equity in the department.
In developing the latest GEP plan, the task force met eight times in 2021. The process also included working with CU’s office of institutional equity and compliance (OIEC) to create a 20-question survey for student athletics to get their input. The survey was sent to 385 student-athletes, with 220 (138 female, 82 male) responding.
Overall, CU has had success in being compliant with Title IX and has continued to evolve.
In the latest report, it was written, “For the 2022-2025 GEP, through physical assessments, data analysis, and audits of departmental practices and procedures, the Task Force concluded that, on balance, the CU Boulder Athletics Department provides a fair and substantially similar experience for all student-athletes. This Gender Equity Plan aims to build on the advancements of its predecessor and continue to move CU Athletics closer to the gender equality ideal.”
- In the past five years, CU has improved its gender equity by achieving progress in several areas, including:
- Updating locker rooms for women’s lacrosse and women’s volleyball.
- Equitable use of the indoor practice facility among football, track and field and soccer.
- Ensuring an equal number of charter flights for men’s and women’s basketball.
- Equity with men’s and women’s golf for head coaching salaries, practice times, etc.
- Hiring a full-time trainer for lacrosse.
- Increasing recruiting budgets for women’s teams.
“We are so proud of what we have accomplished and how we support all of our student-athletes,” Keegan told the regents. “I believe we are a national leader in equitable support across the board.”
As the Buffs move forward with their latest four-year GEP, they have targeted areas of improvement.
Near the top of that list is more improvement in facilities.
For the most part, CU’s facilities for competition and practices graded out as excellent or good. However, the women’s soccer and lacrosse teams have “poor quality” game day facilities, while the track and field and women’s tennis teams have “average quality” facilities.
The task force has recommended that an enclosed space for halftime meetings and permanent bathroom facilities to be constructed at Kittredge Field, which is a public space being used by the women’s lacrosse team.
CU also aims to put together a long-term plan for women’s tennis facilities. The South Campus tennis facility could possibly be removed at some point because of flood mitigation efforts. There is also uncertainty about the future of the indoor courts the team uses at the Rocky Mountain Tennis Center located at the Millennium Harvest House.
As for soccer, there is a recommendation to either install lights at Prentup Field, which would be a significant cost, or have more discussions with campus officials about relocating the soccer field.
CU also aims to find better locker room situations for men’s golf, men’s track and field/cross country and skiing.
In addition, CU will aim to improve its social media presence for women’s sports. There is a recommendation to hire two full-time employees with social media and digital skills to focus on women’s teams.
Among the other recommendations is to increase the Nike allotment for women’s sports in the upcoming academic year.
“This plan does an excellent job of laying out the path to accomplish the task ahead and what we have in front us,” George said.
“With today being the 50th anniversary of Title IX, this is a perfect time for us to celebrate our accomplishments while still recognizing there is much more work to be done.”