The University of Minnesota statistically complies with Title IX legislation largely by having 255 participants combined on the women's cross-country and track teams, a figure that is by far the highest in the Big Ten and double the participation for seven of the conference members in those sports. The Gophers men's cross-country and track teams has a combined 145 participants.
The large number of women runners allowed the university to report to the NCAA that 53.4 percent of its athletes are women (515 women, 449 men), a figure that complies with Title IX because 52 percent of the university's students are women. The figures are from the 2009-10 school year.
But the participation numbers are misleading. Minnesota had 54 women's cross-country runners a year ago, and 50 of them were on the rosters of the two track teams (indoor and outdoor), adding a significant boost to the women's participation numbers. The average size of a Division I women's cross-country team is 17 members. The Gophers men's cross-country members were also counted on both track teams, but had only 21 members.
Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi said he found the New York Times report "disturbing," especially the number of schools counting male practice players as women's athletic participants. He noted Minnesota uses male practice players in volleyball, soccer and women's basketball and does not count them as female participants.
He admitted the Gophers comply with Title IX because of the numbers in women's cross-country and track.
"I tell our coaches a couple times a year that we should all be thankful to [women's cross-country and track coaches] Gary [Wilson] and Matt [Bingle]," Maturi wrote in an e-mail. "Yes, if not for such numbers we would not be in compliance with Title IX and would be challenged to do so. ... It is permissible and all [athletes in those programs] are having a great experience. ... EVERY kid competes."