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Report: Inflated Rowing Rosters Boost Football Schools

Jason Scott

An analysis of college athletic participation by the Omaha World-Herald seems to indicate that many big-time college football programs are sporting inflated women’s rowing rosters to help them maintain compliance with Title IX. 

Schools such as perennial football powerhouses Alabama and Clemson each fielded triple-digit rosters for women’s rowing — 120 at Alabama and 104 at Clemson. The World-Herald identified other programs with rosters of similar sizes; Michigan had 132 women’s rowers, Ohio State had 110, Texas had 101, Oklahoma had 93, Iowa had 91 and the University of Wisconsin had a roster of 176 women’s rowers in 2018. 

From AB: Should One Women's Rowing Roster Carry 170 Athletes?

According to the World-Herald, those figures reflect “novice” rowers who are recruited to try the sport from the general student body, but who the schools get to count as female athletes so long as they’re on the roster by the time of the team’s first competition. 

The large women’s rowing rosters have raised eyebrows among women’s sports advocates, some of whom claim that inflated rosters can rob other female athletes an opportunity to compete.

“Whenever women’s teams or programs are treated differently in this way, such as padding women’s teams with athletes who will never participate, or having women athletes participate in non-varsity ways like novice rowing, that is sex discrimination,” Kristen Galles, an attorney with experience litigating Title IX cases, told the World-Herald

However, some schools claim the novice distinction is a way to expose athletes to the sport for the first time. Many high schools don’t support varsity rowing. 

What do you think? Are inflated rowing rosters an attempt to circumvent gender equity laws, or is there a more innocent explanation? Let us know in the comments.

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