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Meddlers won't quit

[Originally appeared in USA Today, November 17, 1997, as "Opposing View" to USA Today's editorial].

Fresh from its push to protect mental illness in the workplace, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is back with its next social-engineering venture: arm-twisting pay parity between men's and women's coaches. The likely results? More outside meddling in college sports and worsening of the current Title IX disaster for such sports as men's track, wrestling and diving.

News flash: Women are different from men. College football is a huge business, and it won't have a female equivalent as long as women are free to avoid it. Extremes of physical competition don't play the same role in women's lives as in men's.

Yet Brown University got rebuffed when it defended its small excess of male varsity positions by noting that men were more likely to try out for teams. After higher-ups settled a lawsuit by accepting varsity quotas, Cal State Northridge this June proposed dropping men's baseball, soccer, swimming and volleyball. Title IX-driven cuts have devastated "nonrevenue" men's sports, with gymnastics teams, which numbered 133 in 1975, down to 32 today.

After a token concession that not every volleyball coach may be entitled to the pay of a Big Ten football wizard, the new EEOC guidelines start in with the bad news. Comparisons between dissimilar sports? No problem. Offers based on market rates or current pay levels will be suspect: "Cultural and social factors may have artificially inflated men's coaches' salaries."

Worse, the EEOC hints that women's coaches should win even if their programs are revenue washouts -- in one famous case, the USC men's basketball program brought in 90 times as much revenue as the women's -- if colleges didn't advertise and promote their squads as heavily as the men's, though to hype a fanless team may be to throw good money after bad. In a typical stroke of micromanagement, the agency suggests a college may lose if it "sets up weekly media interviews" for a red-hot men's team but not its languishing female equivalent.

Washington flexes its muscles. What keeps on atrophying is freedom.