NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 26, 2008

The United States won more medals in Beijing than it has in any nonboycotted Olympics, but even with that haul, its days of dominance may be numbered, says the Wall Street Journal.

That is in part because U.S. colleges, the primary breeding ground for the country's Olympians, have eliminated hundreds of teams in Olympic sports in recent years.

"We used to have a lot of kids going for the Olympic dream," says Scott Barclay, coach of the men's gymnastics team at Arizona State University. "Without the carrot of a college scholarship, a lot of kids give up, or their parents won't support them as much," he says.

  • Rutgers University in New Jersey last year eliminated six teams in Olympic sports, including fencing and rowing, programs that over the years generated more than a score of Olympians.
  • In 2006, James Madison University in Virginia eliminated 10 teams at once in a handful of Olympic sports, including swimming, gymnastics and wrestling.

The retreat stems from everything from the dominance of college football, according to some, to the implementation of a 1972 gender-equity law known as Title IX, a law that came to be used to make athletic opportunities at schools and colleges more equal between the sexes.

Title IX's success over the years in increasing female participation in sports is undeniable, says the Journal.  The number of girls playing high-school sports has grown by nearly ninefold since the 1970s. The problem, according to critics, is how the law has been implemented in more recent years.  Colleges now have to meet largely one criterion or be clearly heading toward it: The ratio of female-to-male athletes should reflect the ratio of female-to-male undergraduates.

Source: Christopher Rhoads, "Cutbacks in College Sports Risk U.S. Olympic Future," Wall Street Journal, August 25, 2008.

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