During a two-year period between Aug. 1, 2016, and July 30, 2018, coaches at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University used donated private planes to fly to recruiting visits, news conferences and meetings almost 70 times. More revealing is that the donated services disproportionately benefitted men’s teams.
That’s according to an analysis published by the Cedar Rapids Gazette in January. Highlights of the report include:
• Of 54 donated charter flights worth a total $465,000 for University of Iowa coaches, all but one was for men’s sports.
• University of Iowa women’s basketball and volleyball coaches took just eight charter flights during the two-year period, and only one was on a donor’s private plane.
• Of 13 donated charter flights for Iowa State during the period, two were for women’s teams. ISU flew another 72 charter flights in fiscal 2017 and fiscal 2018 for athletics on a university-owned plane, with just four of those for women’s teams.
As a result, some coaches of women’s teams at both universities must pay for non-sponsored charter flights out of their own budgets or fly commercial, according to the newspaper.
“Our athletics fundraising staff is committed to raising funds for all of Iowa’s 24 sports,” said Dana Larson, director of the university’s Center for Advancement, when The Gazette asked whether it presents men’s and women’s team needs the same way to donors. “For example, through our annual fund, donors gave over $12 million last year, which contributes to scholarships for all of our 650 student-athletes. Donors let our fundraisers and coaches know the areas they want to support, and we follow donor intent.”
“Receiving donated amenities generally means it has to use other institutional money to purchase an equivalent benefit for teams of the other sex,” added Erin Buzuvis, a law professor and director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies at Western New England University, in Springfield, Mass., in an email to the paper. (Buzuvis also taught at the University of Iowa’s law school in 2005-06.) “In Iowa’s case, it is hard to see how that criteria or any neutral criteria could explain the disparity in charter flights between two teams — men’s basketball and women’s basketball — that are of similar size and who play opponents in the same region. In an equitable world, these similarly-situated teams should have a similar or maybe even identical number of charter flights.”
The Gazette also notes that “disparities in recruiting travel are a part of the ongoing U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights investigation of the UI Athletics Department.” Of course, the issue isn't likely to be resolved any time soon. A recent independent report has found there was no inequitable treatment of any individuals. Expect the debate to continue since the school is faced with ongoing lawsuits.