Underfunded and Unconquered: FSU Women's Athletics Succeed Despite Unequal Funding
Earlier this month, the Florida State University women's soccer team earned a national championship after beating the University of North Carolina. But despite a stellar year for women’s sports, FSU funding went more toward to men’s sports.
On a brisk early December evening, a banquet hall in Florida State University’s Doak Campbell Stadium is packed with people. They’re here to celebrate the women’s soccer team – who has just won a national championship. Occasionally, cheers echo around the bright room. Young fans line up alongside older fans, decked out in Seminole gear, all waiting to ask the players to sign their posters.
Later, University President John Thrasher recognized the accomplishment.
These women showed the country the heart, the grit, the determination that represents what Florida State is all about.
"These women showed the country the heart, the grit, the determination that represents what Florida State is all about," said Thrasher.
2018 has been a particularly important year for women’s athletics at FSU. Women’s softball at the school won its own national championship and women’s beach volleyball ended its season as the national runner-up. 2018 also marks the 50th anniversary of women’s athletics at the school. But across FSU there’s financial inequity between men’s and women’s sports.
Cecile Reynaud has been around women’s athletics at FSU for the last 42 years. She is a former professor and women’s volleyball coach, who calls the volleyball games.
“To see how far it’s come and how much we’ve grown, it makes me feel a lot older. Certainly Title IX, when that came along in the early 70s, that helped," Reynaud says.
Title IX is the federal statute that makes it illegal for universities receiving federal funds to discriminate on the basis of sex. Reynaud says money for athletics is divided unevenly between men’s and women’s teams at the school. That’s not illegal under Title IX.
The statute only requires scholarship awards go to men and women athletes proportionately. So, because 43 percent of athletes at FSU identify as women, 43 percent of the scholarship money FSU awards to athletes must go to women. It does.
Florida State was one of the first programs that really fully funded scholarships for women in the 80s.
“Florida State was one of the first programs that really fully funded scholarships for women in the 80s,” says Reynaud.
Title IX requires treatment and benefits be equitable, but that doesn’t always mean equal money. Every year, the U.S. Department of Education publishes online data about how much schools across the nation spend on athletics. According to the report, for the 2016-2017 year, FSU had pretty much the same number of male and female athletes. But, FSU spent almost $2 million less on recruiting for women’s teams. And a similar trend shows up when looking at coaches’ pay.
During the December celebration for the women’s soccer team, coach Mark Krikorian started toward the podium, when a fan shouted something.
The fan called out “Give him a raise!” earning laughs from the crowd. But the fan’s comments were right on the mark. Data shows at Florida State for 2016-2017, people paid to coach men’s sports made on average about $1.4 million. While the people FSU paid to coach the women’s teams made less than a third of that.
Some people claim women’s teams should get less money from schools, because men’s teams are traditionally better money-makers.
Meanwhile, FSU men’s and women’s teams have a similar national championship record. The men’s teams have ten and the women’s teams have nine. Four of those wins came in the last five years, and three quarters were from women’s sports.
“I think we’ve come so far, but we’ve got to… I don’t want people to think we’re there. There’s a lot of work still to be done for us to be the best athletic department in the country for women, and women’s sports," Reynaud says.
Reynaud says if FSU wants the women’s teams to continue winning championships, the school needs to make sure teams have the funds they need to be successful. She says updating facilities, increasing coach’s salaries, and more exposure are a good start.
"You know all things look positive. We just can’t rest on what we had in the past, we have to keep moving forward just as they do in Men’s sports," she says.
But part of the problem is that FSU officials decide where money goes once it’s donated and, often, that money goes disproportionately to men’s sports. Earlier this year Florida State announced a fundraising campaign to raise $100 million for the athletic department over the next five years. It’s called the Unconquered Campaign. FSU has already announced $60 million will go toward a state-of-the-art new football facility and $5 million will go toward women’s athletics.
Reynaud has two ideas to help. The first is hiring people to specifically work on fundraising for women’s sports. Another solution is asking people who donate money to the athletics program to make clear they want their donation to go toward women’s athletics.
“Each one of the sports now has their own coaches club. The money can be donated there and the coach can help direct it where it needs to go,” Reynaud explains.
In 2000, Lucy McDaniel donated $1 million to FSU– and she requested the money be used for a scoreboard for the women’s volleyball team. She was an FSU graduate and former student athlete who hoped her donation would inspire other women to donate money specifically to be used for women’s sports.
Earlier this year, the FSU women’s softball team won a national championship – the third in school history but the first in the fast pitch era of the sport.
Reynaud says the softball team wants a new scoreboard, but the school hasn’t found the funds yet. Next door to the softball complex is the University’s baseball stadium. A new $1 million scoreboard looks down onto the baseball diamond. The FSU men’s baseball team has never won a national championship.
But, the women’s soccer team has.
Yeah everybody stand up, the whole team. These are my sisters, basically. And now we have this moment forever. I'll start with Brooke...
“Yeah everybody stand up, the whole team. These are my sisters, basically. And now we have this moment forever. I’ll start with Brooke…”
Now, back at the celebration, the team has climbed on stage for pictures, laughing, they’re putting their arms around each other. The FSU Marching Chiefs play a few recognizable chords, and the women start to sing.
Correction: This story initially stated, "But at FSU, most women’s teams aren’t able to make significant revenue because the school doesn’t charge to get into most games." Florida State does charge for certain women's sports, including soccer, softball and basketball.