An independent coalition of almost 300 colleges has hired a Washington consulting firm in its efforts to win changes in proposed federal policies on sex discrimination that affect the financing of college sports.
In a departure from past attempts to lobby for changes in the application of Title 9 to sports, the colleges have decided to work separately from the National Collegiate Athletic Association and similar organizations in hopes they will fare better. To date, they have raised $100,000 for their campaign.
Coalition founder Marvin D. (Swede) Johnson, administrative vice president of the University of New Mexico, said the unnamed coalition is composed of colleges of all sizes and includes a number of athletic conferences. A breakdown was not available.
Objecting to the use of the word "lobby," Johnson said that DeHart Associates, the Washington firm, was hired to advise and coordinate the coalition's efforts to persuade the Department of Health, Education and Welfare to modify its proposed policies.
"This is not unlike a lot of efforts where there is a single-issue concern," Johnson said. "When you get home to Albuquerque, it's tough to keep abreast of what's going on in Washington.
"The existing organizations are too complex and take too long to do things... We had the option of going, to the NCAA and saying, 'fund us,' but all the groups which have been fussing with this are no farther down the road today than they were seven years ago when Title 9 became law."
Edward H. DeHart, the Washington firm's president, said, "We are here to help them (the coalition's members) get their message through to Washington -- factually, clearly and not in a shrill voice.
"The country is full of people who don't know how to deal with the government and we're trying to encourage each and every (coalition) member to communicate their views, tell the government what it's going to cost at their colleges."
The NCAA has lobbied unsuccessfully in the past to have all sports, then all revenue-producing sports, exempted from Title 9, the federal law barring sex discrimination in school sports programs.
Johnson said the coalition is not seeking similar congressional hearings or legislation "at this moment." Some colleges and conferences that did not join the coalition, however, believe this to be the its aim.
Some athletic-conference directors and college athletic directors contacted yeaterday said they believe there is a militant attitude among some coalition members that could be unproductive.
The controversy is over HEW proposals that would require colleges to equalize their average per capita spending on scholarships, recruiting and other financially measurable items based on the participation rates of male and female athletes.
The proposals do not require dollar-for-dollar spending, allowing financial disparities when the differences result from "sex-neutral" factors or because of the unique costs of such sports as football and basketball. The college would be required to justify those "unique" costs.
Many women consider the special status for these two sports and other vague phrases in the proposed regulations as a backdoor exemption for revenue-producing sports.
Today is the deadline for colleges to respond to the proposals and HEW Secretary Joseph A. Califano has said he expects any revisions to be completed by April 1, with full implementation set for September.
Both Johnson and DeHart stress that the coalition's campaign is not anti-Title 9 or women's sports, but against the way the federal government regulates.
The coalition, DeHart said, is trying to "figure a way the government can implement and enforce Title 9 without hurting colleges economically and destroying colleges economically and destroying the men's programs. We think it's possible."
"We are trying to put some reasonableness into this system..." Johnson said. "We're trying to use the regulation-writing process to get some changes. We want our members to write to HEW and their congressional delegations to tell them how Title 9 will affect them."
Johnson said that contributions to the coalition have been based on the college's ability to pay and have ranged from nothing to $5,000. He said money has come from each college's private resources, such as alumni, and not from operating revenues.
Bonnie Slatton, acting executive director of the Association for Intercollegiate Athlerics for Women, said, "It's unfortunate they aren't asking their schools to put the money into women's programs to bring (the college) into compliance (with Title9).
"We've encouraged our members to write to HEW with their opinions -- just like HEW asked -- and to Congress, but it didn't require $100,000 to do it. This just seems to be a further attempt to exempt revenue-producing sports."
The coalition's members are among the 727 colleges and 68 conferences in the NCAA, although both emphasize this is not a joint venture
NCAA spokesman David Cawood said the Ncaa/ was pleased that some of its members are acting independently on the issue. "Although (NCAA) officers, the council and staff have been working on Title 9, it is true that in the past seven years there hasn't been a great interest by member institutions to be active on a nationally," Cawood said.
A spokesman for HEW said only 230 replies from colleges had been logged by Wednesday, although many more were expected by today. But, the spokesman said, "We're not getting the tens of thousands we had expected by now."