CWA statement calls for ban on male practice players

The NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics released a position statement Monday calling for a ban on the use of male practice players in women's intercollegiate athletics. The statement concludes months of debate about whether the practice should continue.

According to the CWA statement, the use of male practice players "violates the spirit of gender equity and Title IX." The committee believes that "any inclusion of male practice players results in diminished participation opportunities for female student-athletes, contrary to the association's principles of gender equity, nondiscrimination, competitive equity and student-athlete well-being."

The issue was first raised in October 2004, when CWA members said it was contrary to the mission of providing opportunities for women in college sports. Since then, the committee has pushed to eliminate the practice.

Although the practice has been debated in each division, Division III is the only one to have legislation on the table, and that proposal will not eliminate the practice but would limit it to a certain numbers of practices per week during the traditional season. It would also limit the number of male practice players in team sports to no more than half the number required to field a starting women's team.

Division I and Division II are still contemplating the practice.

The committee did acknowledge proponents' most common argument in favor of using male practice players, which is that it improves female players' skills.

"While there is no way to measure the true validity of that argument," the committee said, "if accepted, it still leads to the question -- what cost in participation opportunities for women is the association willing to pay for such improvement? The message to female student-athletes seems to be 'you are not good enough to make our starters better, so we need to use men instead.'"

The CWA determined that that argument implied "an archaic notion of male preeminence that continues to impede progress toward gender equity and inclusion" and believe that using male practice players is a threat to the growth of female participation.

"To have talented, capable female student-athletes stand on the sidelines during official practice while the team's starters practice against 'more talented men' is a lost opportunity," the CWA statement said. "Many of these female student-athletes are on full scholarship and were recruited to participate in intercollegiate athletics at many other institutions. To have them sitting out of practice while a full 'scout team' of men come to practices is costing them the opportunity for growth and betterment that they were promised during recruitment."

The CWA also stated that women's athletics experienced "tremendous growth and betterment" over the years without the use of male practice players and that the practice is harmful and discriminatory.

"Since Title IX was enacted, the coaching and administrative opportunities for females have been diminished greatly," the CWA stated. "In this same period, participation opportunities for female student-athletes have not only risen, but the quality of the experience has improved. The concern that CWA has is that the continued growth of male practice players will jeopardize the opportunities and quality experience available for female student-athletes."