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"Novak Zone"

Aired August 16, 2003 - 09:30   ET


ROBERTS: Well, as (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- as athletic director -- easy for me to say this morning- -- Debbie Yow has helped keep the University of Maryland at the top of college sports. But it's her controversial position on Title IX that has really gotten the nation's attention.
She joins Robert Novak in this week's edition of The Novak Zone.


ROBERT NOVAK, HOST: Welcome to The Novak Zone.

We're at the Comcast Center and the University of Maryland campus, College Park, Maryland, with the university's athletic director, Debbie Yow.

Debbie, you are a rare woman in a man's profession, and yet you have been critical of Title 19, which is supposed to provide gender equity in university athletics between men and women. Why?

DEBORAH YOW, ATHLETIC DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: Well, Bob, I haven't been critical of the law itself. The law is one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation, in my opinion, that's ever been passed in this country.

What I've been critical of is the way in which we judge how the law is applied through the guidelines at the Office of Civil Rights. Those guidelines were made by people like you and me, and I just want it to be fair for both the men and the women.

NOVAK: Do you believe that some 400 men's athletic teams at the university level which have been shut down in recent years, in sports like fencing and gymnastics and wrestling, have been caused because of the scholarship for women under Title 19? A judge has ruled that isn't the case. Do you think it has been?

YOW: I think that there is a connection. Actually, this is -- the reason this is such a complex issue is because there is no simple answer. Others will say to you that those teams could have been saved, if their -- the expenses for the revenue sports in college athletics, like football and men's basketball, were not so high.

There is a piece of the truth in that statement. There is also a piece of truth in the statement that in order to make room for women in college athletics, some of the other teams needed to either be downgraded without scholarships, or at some point to be let go.

So there's a bit of the truth in both of those statements.

NOVAK: The -- when the Bush administration came in, after the 2000 election, everybody thought that this Title IX interpretation would be changed. I believe you are on the advisory council that was selected by Secretary of Education Page. But to everybody's surprise, there has been no change, serious change, made. Without going into the huge complexities, why is that the case?

YOW: Bob, I'm not sure exactly why there was an ultimate decision not to do anything, other than -- One thing they did do was strengthen the compliance element, in other words, make a very clear and firm statement that compliance with Title IX, which is now 30 years old, must occur. And I am in total agreement with that.

The proposal that I had offered, which was very simple, and that is, give 50 percent of the scholarships to the men, 50 percent to the women, 50 percent of the participation opportunities to men, and 50 percent to women...

NOVAK: What's wrong with that?

YOW: ... seemed to me to be fair.

NOVAK: What's wrong with that? Why was that not accepted?

YOW: Opponents to it seemed to think that because 56 percent of all the undergraduates in college, colleges being female, that if there were an opportunity to get 56 percent of the scholarships, as an example, instead of 50, that because we had been the underrepresented sex for so long, that we needed to take what we could get.

NOVAK: But that has been rejected. Is that a closed issue, or do you think that'll be revisited?

YOW: I think that it is a closed issue at this point in time.

NOVAK: Debbie, here at the university, you have -- are creating, I believe, a women's scholarships for cheerleading. How does that help solve the problem here?

YOW: Actually, we don't have the problem at Maryland. We solved ours long ago. But it will -- it could help other institutions.

NOVAK: Debbie Yow, the big sports news out of the University of Maryland, unfortunately, in the last week, was that the school's been placed on probation because an assistant football coach, since dismissed, gave a $330 to a recruit to buy a video toy, against the rules. You self-reported it, you disciplined yourself.

Is it possible for a big university like this to control every assistant coach in this highly competitive business of recruiting?

YOW: I think it's always a challenge when we start talking about control. We basically can't legislate integrity. The key to all of this is to best ensure that the people who are hired that will represent the institution are people of integrity.

In this case, this person had no prior history of doing anything other than playing by the book. Nonetheless, we're responsible, and we're going to tighten up our rules compliance and our educational processes for our coaches, our staff, and for our boosters. But it's -- I was so grateful it was only -- it was isolated to one individual.

NOVAK: And now, the big question for Debbie Yow, University of Maryland director of athletics.

Debbie, this is now big business, this beautiful Comcast Center, and your football stadium has been enlarged. Is it time now to start giving a stipend to the athletes in football and basketball?

YOW: I really don't think so, Bob. I do think that they need to be -- their needs need to be better recognized in one of two ways, possibly. One is to cover the full cost of education. The general public probably doesn't understand that the full cost of education would, as an example, include trips back and forth from home, as an example.

We also need to look at a paradigm where, if Juan Dixon is an example, number three jersey with his name and number on it sells, as it did, wildly popular, that there would be some percentage of that money put aside in an escrow account for Juan, and at the point where he departed the institution, either to play professional ball or to graduation, that that money would be made available to him.

Those are ways to recognize the value that they bring to the institution and to the athletic program that's different than just pay for play.

NOVAK: Debbie Yow, thank you very much.

And thank you for being in The Novak Zone.



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