Penn State Athletics: Barbour opens the door to adding a women’s varsity sport. Could it be crew or rugby?


Sandy Barbour, Penn State’s director of intercollegiate athletics, said she was open to the possibility of the university adding an additional women’s varsity sports team.

The reveal came during their Zoom press conference on Saturday after I asked her about the sports program’s challenge – and legal responsibility – to meet its Title IX commitments to provide equity to its female college athletes.

(I wrote about this at length earlier this summer. Read this report here.)

Penn State currently has 16 men’s teams and 15 women’s teams. The 15 ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten Conference. (Ohio state has 19 women’s and 18 men’s teams.) However, Penn State is the only school in the 14-person conference that has more men’s varsity teams than women’s varsity teams.

“We have to keep working on it,” confirmed Barbour, VP of intercollegiate athletics, who recently started her eighth year at the helm after being hired in late July 2014. “We really need to think about how we can get to this better place in proportionality.

“You know, maybe that has to change.

“I want to say this: I want to fulfill our obligations from a Title IX point of view and, more importantly, to fulfill our obligations to our female students by giving them more opportunities rather than reducing or compromising the male side,” she added. “Because this is a challenge for us, especially given our number of programs and the nature of our programs.”

A possible addition to Penn State could be the crew.

Many Big Ten schools have closed the gender gap in their on-campus locker rooms by adding college crew teams for women. Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Rutgers, and Wisconsin all have varsity rowing programs for women, ranging from 80 women in Michigan State to 171 women in Wisconsin.

Penn State has one Club crew team for men and women. The club team trains at Bald Eagle State Park in Howard on the Foster Joseph Sayers Reservoir. The 1,730-acre lake is 23 miles northeast of the Penn State campus, with much of the drive easily accessible via Route I-99.

Other potential additions include wrestling and rugby, as Penn State’s rugby team has won multiple national championships, and wrestling, as the number of high school girl wrestling in Pennsylvania increases and the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club is home to female wrestlers who take part in competitions nationally and internationally. Jane Valencia from the NLWC competed in the Olympics for Mexico.

According to GoPSUSports, com: “Penn State’s rugby program is classified by the university as a team sport rather than a club sport, as is the case with most college rugby programs, and as such is in the Intercollegiate Athletics Department of Penn State settled. With services such as paid coaching and administrative staff, university health insurance, sports coach at all rugby events, university weight room and strength and conditioning coaches, direct medical referrals to PSU team doctors for assessment, treatment and rehabilitation, admission support and an academic support program, the team receives this lots of college support like any rugby program in the country including ‘varsity’ programs.

Indiana has a women’s water polo team around the Big Ten, while Nebraska has women’s uni teams in beach volleyball (Attention, Russ Rose!), Bowling and a rifle. Ohio State also has women’s synchronized swimming and rifle teams.


This is what Barbour speaks of when she speaks of “proportionality”:

According to the latest figures submitted by Penn State to the federal government, 52.9% of students on University Park campus were identified as male and 47.1% as female.

According to reports issued by Penn State as part of its Title IX compliance with the U.S. Dept. of Education, Penn State Athletics had 966 participants in 2019-20 – 540 who identified themselves as males (56%) and 426 identified as females (44%). ).

This figure for the women includes the count of 28 male training players – who participate in training but not in games, mostly (18) with the PSU women’s basketball team – as women. Without male exercise players, the proportion of female athletes drops to 41.2%. There is a significant difference between that 41.2% and the 47.1% of Penn State’s student body, which is made up of women. This is the largest gender gap in the Big Ten.

The federal government calls this proportionality, and it is one of the top three metrics used to measure compliance with Title IX, the 1972 federal law that “Prevents People from Gender Discrimination in Education Programs or Activities That Are Federally Funded” protects “help measure.”

(What could be better for Penn State, long considered a pioneer in college sports for women, than fulfilling their commitment to proportionality by turning 50.

To make up for this difference, I calculated Penn State would have to offer 57 other athletic participation opportunities for female college athletes in University Park.

In pure attendance numbers, Penn State had 114 more male athletes than female athletes in 2019-20 and 142 more males when male exercise players are not counted as women. This is the largest gender gap in the Big Ten.


Barbour should know the hurdles and challenges that women’s sport has endured for decades at the collegiate level. She was a four year old letter winner and team captain in field hockey as a student at Wake Forest, where she also played two seasons of college basketball. Before starting her administrator career, which included AD at Tulane and Cal before Penn State, she coached field hockey at UMass and coached both field hockey and lacrosse at Northwestern.

She noted that Penn State compliance with Title IX commitments is an ongoing effort.

“I don’t think it ever happened. I think it’s always in the works, ”she said on Saturday. “There are a number of different buckets for Title IX. And one of them is what are the advantages for the students that in this case the under-represented gender is our female students? One day men will be the underrepresented gender, I promise.

“And, you know, do we offer you high quality coaching every day, with facilities, with travel options? They call it the laundry list. And I think this is something that needs to be cared for and fed on a daily basis. But I feel very comfortable where we are. “


Barbour didn’t mention this, but in its latest report to the NCAA for the 2019-20 season, Penn State listed 50 participants on the men’s lacrosse team and only 36 on the women’s lacrosse team.

For that season, Penn State provided 12.59 scholarships for the men’s lacrosse team and 13.25 for the women’s lacrosse team. The men’s lacrosse players received $ 827,900 in grants from Penn State Athletics, while the female lacrosse players received $ 776,194 in grants from Penn State Athletics.

“The other kind of prominent (measure of compliance with Title IX) is participation rates, and I think we’ve had a tough time there,” said Barbour. “I have a good feeling: although we probably didn’t get the numbers we need for strict proportionality, it’s not because female athletes didn’t have the opportunity. Our women’s programs are never capped. They even get floors as targets to help us get the numbers we need from a proportionality perspective. But I know in my time, and I think I’ve never heard of anything before me, that we ever cut our women’s programs. “

Barbour added that Penn State’s athletics work on multiple levels to provide their female athletes with opportunities and support on a par with men.

“There are a number of things we did every day,” she said, “by checking and making sure things are fair – whether it be to improve some of our charter options for our women’s programs.” to sniff, or up to equal, we equal balance or come closer to each other there. When we decided to cover the participation costs, we made sure that these were distributed fairly across all of our women’s programs. I’m sure there are some additions, but those are some that come to mind. “

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