Gender and scholarships in varsity athletics

<strong>C</strong>anadian university athletics often face comparison to their American equivalent, not always in a positive light. The Canadian Interuniversity Sport is no match for the hype that surrounds the National Collegiate Athletic Association. But this month, Alex Usher of Higher Education Strategy Associates made a comparison between the two systems that shone a positive light on the CIS.&nbsp;

He took a look at gender balance in participation and scholarships in both systems. According to Usher, in the NCAA &ldquo;a part of the Higher Education Act known as Title IX has required institutions to offer equitable opportunities to play sports and that they offer scholarship opportunities to men and women equal to their participation.&rdquo; The result of this policy is that 57 per cent of the athletes in the NCAA are male, and they receive 54 per cent of athletic scholarships. To put this into context, males make up about 45 per cent of the undergraduate body in the United States.

Looking at Canada, nothing as extensive as Title IX exists. The only regulation that the CIS has is a self-disclosed requirement to keep the gender balance of scholarship distributions to a 10 per cent corridor around gender parity. Yet even without extensive rules the Canadian numbers are similar: 54 per cent of athletes in varsity sports are male, they received 57 per cent of the scholarships, and they make up 44 per cent of the undergraduate body. Usher noted that since 2001-02 the gender balance of varsity participation has remained steady, but the allocation of scholarships has grown more balanced, shifting from 65 per cent to the current 57 per cent.

On the UW campus, males make up 53 per cent of varsity athletes and&nbsp; received 60 per cent of scholarship money last year. Christine Stapleton, associate director &mdash; athletics, said that when it comes to scholarships, &ldquo;the CIS has basically self disclosure, so we are all trying to comply within a 10 per cent corridor of 50-50 gender equity. We&rsquo;ve done a good job over the years [to] try to be within that 60-40 corridor.&rdquo;

When it comes to athletic scholarships, UW is ranked 14th in Ontario. It is hard to make comparisons at a national level, as the OUA has self-imposed additional caps on scholarships, with individual scholarships being capped at $4,000.&nbsp;

Athletes at UW receive almost double the amount of money in academic scholarships than they do in athletic scholarships. Entering students must have an 80 per cent average to qualify for a scholarship and continuing student athletes must maintain a 70 per cent average as a full-time student to retain the their scholarship. Stapleton noted that &ldquo;at the University of Waterloo, we had, last year, one-third of our student athletes who [were] not only continuing at a 70 per cent, they were &lsquo;academic all-Canadian&rsquo;, so maintaining an 80 per cent average.&rdquo; Achieving &ldquo;academic all-Canadian&rdquo; status exempts any scholarship received by that athlete from the total team cap that is in place.&nbsp;

According to Stapleton, the money for athletic scholarships does not primarily come from the university&rsquo;s central budget. &ldquo;Right now at the university it is about two to one, so two dollars from alumni and our collaboration with the alumni office, our development office, and self-generated, to one dollar from the central university.&rdquo;&nbsp;