Men’s sports at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln must cut student-athletes or force them to sit out one season as redshirts to make room for the growing football team. One of the teams most affected is the men’s track and field team at UNL.
This team is tasked with lowering its roster by almost 20% to be compliant with the NCAA’s Title IX rule. According to the NCAA, this law requires each university to have an “equitable” number of men and women student-athletes.
Ty Moss, a senior and captain on the UNL men’s track and field team, said other UNL teams should not have to cut players because these teams have done great things within their respective sports recently while “the football program has been lackluster.”
“How does the correlation of more players make a team better?” Moss continued. “I understand that football is a Nebraska tradition, but times have changed, and it is not the ‘90s anymore.”
Since joining the Big Ten Conference in 2011, the Huskers football team has never won a Big Ten Conference Championship, while the Huskers track and field team has won five Big Ten Conference Championships in 2013 outdoor, 2015 indoor, 2016 indoor, 2016 outdoor and 2019 indoor.
Despite its recent successes, teams like the Huskers men’s track and field team are rarely noted in comparison to the Huskers football team’s previous successes: The Huskers football team won five national championship titles; most recently in 1997.
Moss said he believes the football team should be required to “yield some positive results” to justify its roster size.
Nebraska’s last league title was in 1999 when it was a member of the Big 12 Conference.
The football team still brings in the most revenue of any sport at UNL even without posting results. In 2018, the team generated $94.2 million before expenses. This helps to provide facilities for all sports.
The Title IX law requires UNL to have equal facilities for all sports and genders, said Laure Ragoss, former UNL assistant athletic director for compliance, in a 2018 interview.
“The things we consider with Title IX are not just participation numbers,” Ragoss said. “We need to have comparable facilities for all sports and genders.”
It would be nearly impossible to provide equal facilities without the Huskers football team’s revenue. In 2018, the Huskers football team generated $46.4 million after expenses. This revenue helped not only pay for other UNL sports’ facilities but also for academic expenses and for various sports’ travel expenses.
Members of the UNL men’s track and field team said they understand the effects of the Title IX Law on their sport.
“I wouldn’t say it’s fair, but it is justified,” thrower Burger Lambrechts Jr. said. “The football team is the only reason we have nice facilities for other sports.”
Lambrechts Jr., from Pretoria, South Africa, said he recognizes the importance of the law for women.
“I do think it’s good that women get an equal amount of athletic opportunity,” Lambrechts Jr. said.
Moss also supports Title IX for providing opportunities for women.
“I personally think Title IX is a great thing and something that should always be implemented,” Moss said, “knowing how our history is of undercutting women in sports and simply overall.”
But he disagrees with the law when it harms men competing in less popular, more successful sports.
The major issue comes when universities have too many men on a team.
For Keith Mann, Nebraska’s associate athletic director for communications, the large football roster has “resulted in increased opportunities in some other sports; mostly women’s sports.”
Mann did not comment of how the large football roster impacts other men’s sports.
To remain compliant with Title IX, UNL has more women’s than men’s teams in its 24 varsity sports. Even with 14 women’s teams and 10 men’s teams, it must cut or redshirt men’s team members to comply with Title IX.
“We would have to do something to even out the males and the females. We could add a women’s team or the unfortunate thing would be that we may have to cut an existing men’s team,” UNL’s assistant director of compliance for student-athlete services, Jena Johnson said in a 2018 interview.
The Huskers had 153 football players on its 2019 roster, which is the most of the 14 universities in the Big Ten. The Huskers have 35 more players than the average number of football players in the Big Ten. The Huskers track and field team has about 18 more athletes than the average number of men track and field athletes in the Big Ten.
“If the UNL football program can have that many players and give them opportunities to be a part of a Division I program, why aren’t track and field and other sports allowed to do the same?” Moss said.
Moss, a business and marketing major, said he thinks no member on his team should simply be given an opportunity to compete. Much like in the business world, Moss said he thinks he and his teammates need to try out to earn their spot as they would if they were competing with colleagues and other companies. However, he thinks those who have earned their spot should not be cut.
“I believe that cutting people on our team because of a large football team, is simply ridiculous,” Moss said.