The recent $2.8 billion settlement between the NCAA, major conferences, and student-athletes has significant implications for Title IX compliance in college sports. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational programs and activities that receive federal funding, including athletics. The settlement allows schools to directly compensate athletes through revenue-sharing, potentially creating disparities between men's and women's sports programs. While the settlement does not explicitly address Title IX, it raises several concerns:

Equitable Distribution of Funds

Schools must ensure that the distribution of revenue-sharing funds complies with Title IX's requirement of providing equal athletic opportunities for both genders As Attorney Michael J. Epstein notes, “Failure to allocate funds equitably could lead to lawsuits alleging gender discrimination.”

Roster Management

The settlement replaces scholarship limits with roster restrictions, which could impact the number of participation opportunities available for each gender. Schools must carefully manage roster sizes to maintain proportional participation rates and avoid Title IX violations.

Roster Cap Implications

Under the settlement, sports will have roster caps instead of scholarship limits. For example, Division I men's basketball teams may have up to 15 players, while women's teams can have up to 16. These caps could lead to the following issues:

Participation Disparities

If schools maximize roster sizes for revenue-generating men's sports but not for women's teams, it could create a significant gap in participation opportunities between genders.

Walk-On Opportunities

With no scholarship limits, schools may offer more walk-on spots to generate revenue through tuition payments. However, this could disproportionately benefit men's programs if not balanced across genders.

Roster Management Strategies

Schools may need to implement strategies like capping roster sizes below the maximums, alternating larger and smaller roster years, or adding new women's sports to maintain overall proportionality.

Compliance Monitoring

To ensure Title IX compliance, schools and conferences will need to closely monitor roster sizes and participation rates each year. This may involve:

Data Collection

Tracking the number of participants, roster sizes, and participation opportunities for each sport, broken down by gender.

Proportionality Analysis

Comparing participation rates to the overall student body gender ratio to identify potential disparities.

Periodic Reviews

Conducting regular reviews and audits to assess compliance and make necessary adjustments to roster sizes or program offerings.

Complaint Procedures

Establishing clear procedures for students or advocacy groups to report potential Title IX violations related to participation opportunities. Effective roster management and compliance monitoring will be crucial for schools to navigate the new landscape created by the NCAA settlement while upholding Title IX's principles of gender equity in athletics.

Recruiting Advantages

Schools with larger revenue streams may gain a competitive advantage in recruiting top talent by offering higher compensation packages.  Epstein adds that “This could exacerbate existing disparities between men's and women's programs at different institutions.”

Booster Influence

The settlement may give schools more control over the NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) marketplace, which has been largely driven by booster collectives. However, booster involvement could still create Title IX issues if it disproportionately benefits one gender over the other.

Potential Solutions and Challenges

To mitigate Title IX risks, schools and conferences may need to implement safeguards and policies, such as: Establishing equitable revenue-sharing models that allocate funds proportionally based on participation rates or other Title IX-compliant metrics. Closely monitoring roster sizes and participation opportunities to maintain gender equity. Implementing strict guidelines for booster involvement and NIL deals to prevent gender-based disparities. Increasing overall athletic budgets to accommodate additional compensation for women's programs.

However, these measures may face challenges, including:

Disagreements over equitable distribution formulas and metrics. Resistance from boosters or alumni groups favoring specific programs. Limited financial resources, especially for smaller institutions or non-revenue sports. Potential legal challenges from athletes or advocacy groups alleging discrimination. As the settlement's implementation progresses, schools and conferences must remain vigilant in upholding Title IX principles and ensuring equal opportunities for all student-athletes, regardless of gender.