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The Daily Tar Heel

Title IX and the baseball dilemma

College baseball could be a revenue-generating sport. There is no bigger void in America between the popularity of a college sport and professional sport than between college baseball and Major League baseball.

Look no further than attendance figures to understand college baseball’s potential. The opening week attendance for defending college baseball national champion South Carolina averaged 7,933 compared to 41,960 for defending MLB champions the San Francisco Giants averaged at home.

For comparison: The opening game attendance for defending BCS national champion Alabama was 101,821 in relation to Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints’ 70,051. The difference is reversed.

The room for growth in college baseball is undeniable. However, the college market will not mature due to the unfortunate restrictions imposed by Title IX. Title IX was amended in 1972 to create opportunities for women in sports. There are now 15 women’s sports at UNC. It has clearly served its purpose, but it is antiquated and needs reform.

Title IX now does nothing more than squander opportunities by often forcing athletic departments to cut other sports. The financing issues raised by Title IX serve to further generate the win-at-all-costs mentality in college basketball and football by forcing profit maximization in so-called amateur athletics.

One of UNC’s top pitchers, Greg Holt, wrote to me, “I think that Title IX is something that is hindering baseball (from) becoming a potential revenue sport. If a softball player can receive a full scholarship then I feel as if a baseball (player) should be able to receive the same amount.” Holt’s reference to the scholarship allocation is easily explainable.

Football and men’s basketball combine for up to 98 full scholarships on a yearly basis — a number that must be matched in proportion with women’s scholarships. When 98 scholarships from two men’s sports have to be counterbalanced in women’s sports, it is not hard to comprehend why men’s baseball gets overlooked.

Football and basketball are needed to fund the other 26 non-revenue varsity sports. Consider the fact that UNC’s women’s basketball team lost $1.86 million two seasons ago. These expenses mean less resources for men’s baseball, fewer scholarships and lower operating budgets.

The lack of a roster of full scholarships drastically hurts the popularity of college baseball. Unless a player is blessed enough financially to pay out-of-state tuition, he is forced to play for a cheaper in-state school. On UNC’s roster, 18 of the 32 players listed hail from North Carolina.

Elite high school prospects are more likely to bolt for professional baseball out of high school when faced with the reality of taking on loads of debt to afford college. Fifteen of the 30 first-round picks in the 2010 MLB draft were high school players. If college baseball was able to lure the best players in the country, more fans would attend games, TV ratings would increase, stadiums would expand and better coaches would arise.

But if baseball is given a legitimate chance to succeed, the end result could be another revenue stream for athletic departments.

And it could actually mean more opportunities for women in the future.

Sam Ellis is a sports columnist for the Daily Tar Heel. He is a senior economics and exercise and sports science major from Chapel Hill. Contact him at swellis@email.Unc.Edu.

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