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Thursday, June 20, 2002
Dixon faces reality of Title IX compliance

By Greg Garber
ESPN.com

More than 25 years ago, when Title IX still was an obscure law that had little bearing on athletics, Judy Dixon got as mad as hell.

Judy Dixon
A few months ago, UMass tennis coach Judy Dixon lost half her team to budget cuts.
She was the coordinator of women's athletics at Yale University, overseeing recruiting in seven sports. She also coached the women's tennis team. Though she carried the full-time duties of an athletic administrator, Dixon still was paid less than her male counterpart, who only coached the men's tennis team. In the button-down tradition of the Ivy League's old-school math, the women were given one of the school's four tennis courts for practices; the men got the other three.

Dixon filed a complaint with the Employment Opportunity Commission, and when she later sued the school, she promptly was terminated. Then, one week before the case went to court, Yale settled.

Today, Dixon is seen as a pioneer of Title IX and all it has come to mean. And yet, in a curious way, she has become a victim, too. On April 14, her University of Massachusetts men's tennis team lost to Temple 4-3 in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament. It was the end of a cathartic 5-24 season -- and the end of the program, too. The team was one of seven casualties at UMass in the wake of $17 million in state budget cuts.

Dixon's women's team, on the other hand, will live to play next year.

"That (lawsuit) was many, many moons ago," Dixon said from her office in Amherst, Mass. "When people hire me, it makes them a little nervous. Now, I'm in position to see my men's team go. It's ironic. I'm all over the place on this thing. I hated to see the men go."

So, quite naturally, did the men themselves. Rory Theis, a sophomore from Bloomington, Minn., enrolled at UMass primarily to play tennis -- even though there was no scholarship money for the men, as opposed to three full scholarships divided among six women.

"It was basically a complete shock," Theis said. "The women's team was sad to see us leave. Maybe it would have been better if they'd been cut too."

Susan Hyams, a sophomore from Cincinnati, said she was devastated.

"One of the big reasons I chose UMass was because it had a men's program. I grew up playing with boys, always got along with them. Next year, we'll be practicing all alone. It won't be as much fun.

"I guess, it's all about the money. I don't know what you could do unless you got rid of football, but they'd never do that."

The budget cuts at UMass are similar to ones seen at many other institutions around the country. The school already has cut 6 percent of its academic programs, raised its student fees and laid off 95 employees, and 400 additional workers -- including 100 tenured professors -- have applied for early retirement.

The athletic cuts -- women's volleyball, men's and women's water polo, men's and women's gymnastics and men's indoor track are the other casualties -- leave 136 athletes without teams and eliminate six full-time coaches and four part-timers. The total savings is $1.1 million; men's tennis cost $50,000 -- $22,000 for a full-time assistant coach, plus expenses and travel.

This is the second time men's tennis has been cut at UMass; after a two-year sabbatical, the team was restored in 1993. This time, it seems, they're gone for good.

"We heard rumblings in February, and the word came down in March," Dixon said. "We told the team before Spring Break, and they took it very badly. They didn't want to play any more. We had to coax them into finishing the season. The freshmen recruits had to scramble to find other alternatives, and some of the guys on the team are still trying to make arrangements."

Theis, for instance, is transferring to the University of Maryland. But, he said, there are no guarantees.

"They have a quota system there," he said. "I'm going to have to try out for the team.

"I blame the government of the state of Massachusetts and the president of the University. Title IX, I'm figuring, played a big part in it. Women's volleyball got cut, so we had to take the hit for them to keep things equal. Gender equity is a major player here.

"The sports with no revenue & you can just cut them and nobody gets upset."

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.