[A]s women have grown to 57 percent of American colleges’ enrollment, athletic programs have increasingly struggled to field a proportional number of female athletes. And instead of pouring money into new women’s teams or trimming the rosters of prized football teams, many colleges are turning to a sleight of hand known as roster management.... [M]any are padding women’s team rosters with underqualified, even unwitting, athletes. They are counting male practice players as women. And they are trimming the rosters of men’s teams....So more and more women go to college, and that results in more pressure to limit men's sports and the immensely important activity of watching the men play sports. Isn't that a terrible downward spiral?
Shrinking budgets also spur universities to use these tactics, said Jake Crouthamel, a former Syracuse athletic director. “It’s easier to add more people on a roster than it is to start a new sport,” he said.
Yet football, the pride of many universities and a draw for alumni, rarely faces cuts. The average Division I football team went from 95 players 30 years ago to 111 players in 2009-10.
“Football is the elephant in the whole thing,” Mr. Crouthamel said. “That’s the monster.”
After South Florida added more than 100 football players... Lamar Daniel, a gender-equity consultant, ... recommended adding a women’s swimming team and warned that trying to comply with the proportionality option would be difficult because South Florida’s female participation numbers were too low.What an embarrassing farce!
But university officials tried anyway. A primary strategy was to expand the women’s running teams. Female runners can be a bonanza because a single athlete can be counted up to three times, as a member of the cross-country and the indoor and outdoor track teams.
In 2002, 21 South Florida women competed in cross-country. By 2008, the number had grown to 75 — more than quadruple the size of an average Division I cross-country team....