Study: Number of teams shrinking

An organization that advocates Title IX reform says opportunities to play tennis are shrinking in NCAA Division I because of the law.

The College Sports Council released a study Tuesday showing that the percentage of schools sponsoring tennis teams has declined in recent years. Chairman Eric Pearson blamed Title IX, which requires that a school's ratio of male to female athletes mirror the gender ratio of the undergraduate student population.

"A sport like tennis is affected because it's a smaller-roster sport," Pearson said. "If you get rid of a tennis team, men or women, you can replace that with a rowing team that will have much larger squad sizes and balance out the numbers on the women's side.

"If we could reform Title IX so schools had other ways to comply, rather than chasing the proportionality formula, it would be better for everybody," he said.

The NCAA called the CSC's interpretation of the data misleading. The Women's Sports Foundation also disagreed with the council, saying any accurate analysis of Title IX requires looking at athletic departments as a whole.

The CSC study shows that there are more tennis teams for women (311) than for men (258) in Division I. But the percentage of schools sponsoring women's teams has fallen from 96 percent in 1996 to 93 percent in 2009, and the percentage of Division I schools sponsoring men's teams has declined from 92 percent to 77.5 percent during the same span.

The CSC argues that Title IX enforcement resulted in the elimination of men's teams while failing to help the women's game grow.

But the NCAA said the number of tennis teams and players in Division I has actually grown since 1996.

"Tennis continues to be a popular sport around the world and on our campuses," the NCAA said in a statement. "There is no evidence that the relatively minor changes overall in tennis participation are related to Title IX."

The Women's Sports Foundation said the CSC's premise is faulty.

"If schools are cutting women's tennis or gymnastics, it is most certainly not due to Title IX," the foundation's Nancy Hogshead-Makar said in a statement. "If schools chose to swap one sport for another more popular sport, Title IX cannot keep a school from making the swap. Schools chose what sports to offer, not Title IX."

In June, the CSC released a study showing only 59 percent of Division I programs offer men's soccer, compared with 93 percent that offer women's soccer. The council blamed the disparity on Title IX and the way schools comply with it.

That conclusion was also met with a stern rebuttal from both the NCAA and the Women's Sports Foundation.

The council is a national coalition of coaches, athletes, parent and alumni.