Gymnast Missed '96 Olympics After UCLA Dropped Team

Steve McCain began his gymnastics career in 1984, the same year the U.S. men's gymnastics team won Olympic gold at UCLA's gymnasium. Three members of the team were products of UCLA and over the next decade, UCLA produced at least one male gymnast in each Olympiad.

As McCain neared the end of high school, he knew UCLA had the history and tradition to propel his own Olympic dreams, so he accepted a full athletic scholarship from the Bruins.

As a freshman, McCain won his first National Collegiate Athletic Association individual championship on the high bar and was prepared to build on that success in his sophomore season while also preparing for the 1996 Olympic trials.

But at the start of the 1993-94 school year, McCain and his teammates were informed UCLA was dropping the gymnastics program.

"I was just like, 'Whoa, how is UCLA dropping their program?'" McCain, now 31, recalled. "I can understand if it was just some school with a gymnastics program that didn't accomplish anything, but we're UCLA for goodness sake. I thought we'd be the last one to go."

At the time, UCLA cited budget concerns as the reason for cutting men's gymnastics, as well as men's swimming and women's gymnastics. The school made no reference to Title IX, but at the same time it dropped those three programs, it also added women's soccer and later reinstated women's gymnastics.

McCain's story is all too familiar for Jim McCarthy. McCarthy is a spokesman for the College Sports Council, a group comprised of coaches primarily of men's sports, but also includes some coaches of female athletes.

The Council says Title IX is the reason several men's teams have disappeared from college campuses and rosters in men's sports have been capped, when women's rosters have not. The Council is among the organizations that support the recent clarification of Title IX.

In March, the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights released a clarification that advises schools they can use an e-mail survey to gauge the athletic interest of the student body, and if there is not interest and ability among the underrepresented sex (usually women), schools do not have to provide athletic opportunities in those sports, but will still be in compliance with Title IX. Title IX is the 1972 law that bans discrimination in education -- including sports programs at schools and universities -- based on gender. To read more, Click Here.

The clarification is "a strong and important first step toward reform of a policy that has wreaked havoc on college campuses," McCarthy said. "What's especially positive about it is that it allows every athlete, male or female, to have opportunities in athletics simply by raising a hand and saying 'I wish to participate.' "

Those opposed to the clarification say it will freeze the progress made in women's sports in the last three decades, during which time the number of female college athletes soared from 74,239 in 1981-82 to 162,752 in 2003-04, according to the NCAA. Between 1988-89 and 2003-04, there was a net gain of 1,971 women's teams.

The number of male athletes also increased in that time, from 169,800 athletes in 1981-82 to 217,309 in 2003-04, according to the NCAA. Between 1988-89, there was a net gain of 42 teams; however, among Division I schools during that time period, there was a net loss of 239 men's teams. Certain sports have fared worse than others.

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