The Collegian
Saturday, April 20, 2024

UR Curious: Is athletics violating Title IX by double counting the women's track and cross country teams?

At The Collegian, we want to write stories that matter to you. We asked readers to send in their questions and burning curiosities about the University of Richmond. No topic was too big or too small. We picked five of them, and our reporters have found the answers for you. One question and answer will be published each day this week. Read the other stories in the series here. And keep being curious. 

Question: Is Richmond Athletics violating Title IX policy by double counting their women's track and women's cross country teams in order to increase the number of female athletes on campus to even out the male-to-female ratio?

To begin, The Collegian needed to confirm that the University of Richmond does double count its athletes.

“Per the established guidelines of the Office of Civil Rights and the NCAA, the university and the Department of Athletics uses the standards consistent with indicators of Prong 1 of Title IX in the area of equity in athletics," associate athletic director/senior woman administrator LaRee Sugg said. "With regards to tracking participants, male and female athletic participation opportunities are calculated by applying the OCR’s definition of a participant. Per this definition, any student who meets the definition of a participant in more than one sport must be counted as a participant in each sport to which they compete."

In short, yes, UR does double count its athletes, but, as Sugg stated, the university is well within its rights to do so under OCR and NCAA standards.

This fact was confirmed by Title IX specialist Valerie Bonnette, who co-authored the Title IX Athletics Investigator Manual issued by the OCR. She gave this reply in an email exchange:

“There is no Title IX policy against double and triple counting athletes on one side of the program only. As a consultant, I advise against that practice, but there is no written policy prohibiting that. My guess, from my 15 years in the headquarters office of the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education, is that if the Office for Civil Rights is investigating such programs, that they would make their determinations on a case-by-case basis to ensure that athletes who are double and triple counted are being counted properly."

Although the university is entitled to double count, it does not mean that everyone agrees with the practice.

“I’m not a huge fan of [double counting],” senior and four-year cross country and track athlete Madeline Ustanik said. “I’m very supportive of Title IX ... because there has been, historically, a great deal of inequity. I think the sentiment is there and the idea is there, but by doing this, we are not really applying these ideas of Title IX. By having us all counted as three athletes, that perpetuates underrepresentation of women in sports.”

Regardless of personal sentiment, UR is not violating any Title IX policies by double counting its women’s track and field and cross country athletes.

Contact senior news writer Joshua Kim at 

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