When it comes to college sports, charter plane travel can be a major boon, allowing coaches to save time and fly exactly when needed.
However, charter flights are expensive, and many programs rely on private donations to fund such travel. And as The Gazette of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, reports, even among larger athletic programs, those donations tend to benefit men’s teams disproportionately.
The paper analyzed athletics travel records for the state’s two major programs, the University of Iowa and Iowa State University. Some of the findings: Of 54 donated charter flights given to University of Iowa coaches, all but one went to men’s sports. Meanwhile, of the 13 flights donated to Iowa State, just two went to women’s teams.
The imbalance means that coaches of women’s teams who travel either must pay for charter flights out of their own budgets, or fly commercial — which takes more time away from both practices on campus and personal lives.
The data gathered by The Gazette don’t offer any indication of why the imbalance between men’s and women’s teams exists, but according to the paper the trend could reflect the disparity of revenue generation between programs. At Iowa, football and men’s basketball accounted for a combined 96 percent of the department’s ticket sale revenue in 2017.
However, Erin Buzuvis, a law professor and the director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies at Western New England University, told The Gazette that Title IX requires schools to equally distribute resources.
“Receiving donated amenities generally means it has to use other institutional money to purchase an equivalent benefit for teams of the other sex,” Buzuvis wrote in an email to The Gazette. “In Iowa’s case, it is hard to see how that criteria could or any neutral criteria could explain the disparity in charter flights between two teams — men’s basketball and women’s basketball — that are of similar size and who play opponents in the same region. In an equitable world, these similarly situated teams should have a similar or maybe even identical number of charter flights (with no regard as to whether they were donated or not).”
Recruiting-related travel disparities are included within an ongoing investigation of the University of Iowa’s athletic department by the U.S. Department of Education.