Women’s soccer haze | Even with World Cup rush, sex always gets headlines

Wallace Wade Stadium at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, the home of the school’s woeful gridiron-football team. Each year, Duke fields 26 varsity sports teams, men’s and women’s, and spends $10.5 million for athletic scholarships.

“There is no overstating how big college sports are in America,” writes Paul Harris in the Observer of London, offering a valuable outsider’s perspective. He marvels at the Duke gridiron-football stadium, “a deep bowl, carved into a hillside” that would put “many professional British football teams to shame.” He should have a gander at the stadiums housing good college teams; there, he would behold even more opulence.

Frank Deford, the curmudgeon of National Public Radio and Sports Illustrated online, extends the “athletes gone bad” theme to women on the basis of the Northwestern incident, going so far as to imply that the extension of Title IX in the 1970s, seeking equal participation for women in college sports, has helped lead us to the present shame. “We had hoped when women started participating in sports in large numbers after the passage of Title IX that they would improve the institution,” he writes, “investing it with the finer feminine values. Well, the results so far seem to indicate that, instead, sports has won and womanhood has lost.”

In fact, the source of much problem behavior remains the men. According to Harris’s research in the Observer, male student athletes, representing 3 percent of student populations, account for 19 percent of campus sexual assaults. Another aspect, naturally, is the ready availability of alcohol and its awesome impact in the dysfunctional zones of student housing. At Duke, the campus food service offers kegs of beer for student groups to help them slosh through the weekend. There is also an on-campus bar, which seems like overkill.

Now, with the Internet and the prodigious wireless networks at campuses nationwide, exploits can be documented with ease. Susan Lipkins, an authority on hazing who has been making the media rounds, says the posting of demeaning photographs online, presumably by the participants themselves, indicates a malfunctioning moral compass. The participants’ lack of perspective relates directly, she says, to the exaltation of sports in the very environments where civic responsibilities and development of the inner person should be cornerstones of the curriculum.


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