Tag Archive for: compliance

Now is your chance to learn a little more about the team at Spry. We recently asked the staff  and advisory board if they participated in a sport in college and to tell us about their experience as a student athlete.  Check out their answers below.

There is nothing to compare to the education, the challenges, the emotion and the personal satisfaction I received as an All American basketball player at the University of Maryland. – Len Elmore, Spry Advisory Board

I did not play a sport in college. – Grady Gu, Product Manager

I am a proud 8x intramural basketball/football/softball champion Matt Suchecki, Customer Success Manager

I was not a student-athlete – Todd Hairston, Compliance Director

I played defensive tackle at a small school in Pennsylvania – John Fagan, Sales Director

I played college football at the University of Kentucky where I met lifelong friends. I met my future wife of 37 years who was a student trainer at the time. It helped me build life skills that guides me toward success in my personal and professional life. – Keith Martin, Spry Advisory Board

Yes, I played college soccer at Wake Forest. I was incredibly blessed to have an opportunity to join the program as a walk-on. We made three College Cups (the soccer equivalent of the Final Four) and won a National Championship in 2007 (my junior year). My experience as a student-athlete was amazing and I will treasure those moments and memories for the rest of time. – Lyle Adams, CEO

Competitive Body Building – Ellen Zavian, Spry Advisory Board

I played on the Women’s Golf team at Stetson University. It was a wonderful program with a lot of smart, talented athletes. As a student-athlete I learned so much about time management and leadership on campus and on my team. Some of my best memories from Stetson are traveling and practicing with my teammates. – Sarah Knysh, Director of Marketing

No – Barbara Walker, Spry Consultant

My experience as a men’s basketball player at the University of Pennsylvania was everything I could have hoped for. I was blessed to have a phenomenal coaching staff that truly cared about the well being of their players above all else. I was surrounded by a great group of guys each of the four years I was there, whom felt like my brothers. And I had an athletic department that provided endless amounts of support and resources to their student-athletes so they could have a four year experience they would remember forever. – Jackson Donahue, Business Development Manager

Today’s generation of college student-athletes never saw Ed O’Bannon play basketball, but they do have him to thank for one of the privileges they now enjoy. He wasn’t a point guard.  He played power forward, but he might’ve had the biggest assist in the history of college sports. 

In July of 2021, the NCAA enacted legislation that set aside long standing amateurism rules, allowing student-athletes to receive earnings based on their name, image and likeness.  Most student-athletes have probably heard of the O’Bannon v. NCAA case, but since current college students were likely born years after O’Bannon’s college career ended, most have no concept of who he was outside of just being the name before the “v” in one of the most significant legal cases in sports history.  In recognition of the first Black History Month of the NIL era, it seems only fitting that we honor the man behind the name, Ed O’Bannon (a.k.a. The Father of NIL).


Edward Charles O’Bannon, Jr. has had quite a journey. A native of Los Angeles, O’Bannon was a McDonald’s All-American basketball player, and was named the 1990 National High School Player of the Year after leading his team to the California State Championship.  In the fall of 1990, O’Bannon enrolled at UCLA, but didn’t play his freshman year after suffering a career threatening knee injury just days before the start of the season. After battling through a rigorous rehab, O’Bannon returned to the court the next season and went on to have a stellar career at UCLA.  As a senior, O’Bannon led the Bruins to the 1995 National Championship and was named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and National Player of the Year.  Following that season, O’Bannon was selected by the New Jersey Nets as the 9th overall pick in the 1995 NBA draft and enjoyed a nine year professional career.

If the story had ended there, Ed O’Bannon would  have had a legendary career that most could only dream of. But the story didn’t end there. Despite being one of the most decorated high school and college  basketball players of his era, O’Bannon will be remembered by most, not for what he accomplished on the basketball court, but for being the driving force behind a movement that would ultimately redefine the NCAA and college athletics as we knew it.

Changing history

After becoming disgruntled with what he viewed as exploitative practices related to the use of college athletes’ images in video games, O’Bannon became the lead plaintiff in a class action suit against the NCAA in 2009.  The NCAA’s amateurism bylaws prohibited currently enrolled student-athletes from earning revenue for the use of these images. O’Bannon, who would later be joined in the class action suit by other notable athletes such as Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell, argued that the NCAA’s amateurism rules constituted an illegal restraint of trade under antitrust law.  On July 27, 2014, Judge Claudia Wilken ruled in favor of O’Bannon.  This ruling would later be upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. While the decision in the O’Bannon case did not immediately result in NIL legislation, it was significant in that it was a major deviation from previous court decisions which had largely shielded the NCAA from antitrust laws. O’Bannon also created a legislative blueprint for other legal claims against the NCAA under antitrust law, most notably, the Alston case in 2021 which, like O’Bannon, prevented the NCAA from placing strict limitations on the financial awards student-athletes can receive. After the Alston verdict was unanimously upheld by the Supreme Court in June of 2021, sweeping NIL legislation followed almost immediately.

Today, student-athletes all across the country can earn money from endorsement deals, signing autographs and other commercial ventures, and they all have a 6’8” power forward named Ed O’Bannon to thank for it!

Equal Treatment

As we said earlier, passing the three-part test only gets an institution halfway to compliance with Title IX.  In addition to providing fair access, they must also demonstrate equal treatment of both genders throughout the course of their participation. For Title IX purposes, equal treatment is determined by assessing 12 specific categories which are often referred to as the “laundry list”. 


Actual scholarship expenditures will not be equal if a school is not meeting proportionality, however schools should avoid obvious disparities between male and female programs when it comes to scholarship allocations.  For example, if all men’s sports are fully funded to the extent allowed by the NCAA on the men’s side, it would not be equitable to have women’s programs funded below the NCAA equivalency/counter limits.  Compliance staff and business managers are the individuals best positioned to monitor department scholarship expenditures.


Salary and benefits should be relatively comparable between male and female coaches.  There will obviously be certain market forces that will impact this, but ADs and sport administrators should regularly review coaches’ contracts to ensure that incentives and perks such as courtesy cars, clothing allowances and club memberships are relatively equivalent.


In addition to the venues in which men’s and women’s sports compete, practice and training facilities should be comparable as well, including the times during which each program has access to such facilities. If programs have separate training facilities, they should be outfitted with the same amenities. If both programs share a training facility, a recommended practice would be to alternate times so that neither group enjoys a perceived advantage. A designated staff member should be charged with periodically reviewing facility access and usage within the department.


Recruiting budgets should be relatively comparable between programs.  For example, if programs of one gender have the means to recruit nationally, it would not be recommended that programs of the opposite gender are limited to a regional recruiting footprint.


While equipment needs will undoubtedly vary among different sports, providing comparable resources for equipment within like sports is a recommended practice for institutions.  While equipment managers may not have the ability to make budgetary decisions on all campuses, they should at a minimum be aware of significant differences and be empowered to raise those issues for further consideration.


As with recruiting, neither gender should enjoy a decided advantage with regard to scheduling.  If one gender is relegated to a local or regional schedule, while the other is allowed to gain exposure by playing a national schedule, this would constitute unequal treatment under Title IX.  As a best practice, sport administrators should review team schedules with this issue in mind.

Team travel

Travel should not only be roughly equivalent in terms of location, but mode of transportation is a critical component of this assessment as well.  Sport administrators should be cognizant of which programs are allowed to charter flights versus flying commercial, or flying versus driving. A best practice would be to have consistent departmental policies that dictate when teams are allowed to drive, fly or charter.  For example, a policy might stipulate that all teams would travel by bus for any road contest within a 300 mile radius, and outside of that distance all teams would fly. One issue that institutions may not be aware of is that the athletic resources devoted to things like team travel, etc  are not the only factor that is considered in a Title IX analysis.  Sport specific donations from donors that result in one program having access to flights or other privileges not granted equally to both genders could still leave institutions exposed to Title IX issues.


Tutoring services should be accessible to all student-athletes, regardless of the sport.  Again, department wide policies that are overseen by a senior level administrator will help to ensure equity.  For instance, a policy that granted access to tutoring services for all student-athletes below a certain GPA would address the equal treatment clause under Title IX.

Medical Services

Medical decisions will always be made on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of a medical professional, so there is not an expectation that there will necessarily be consistency among medical expenditures.  However, one of the best ways an athletic department could ensure equity in this area is to have an objective process for how athletic training personnel are assigned.  Women’s golf would certainly not require the same number of trainers as the football team, but establishing set ratios the guarantee a trainer per certain number of athletes is a recommended Title IX and health and safety measure.

Housing and Dining

NCAA rules already govern housing assignments to some degree, however it is still advisable for athletic departments to give attention to where clusters of student-athletes are being housed. This would naturally be the responsibility of the athletics designee who serves as the liaison to the Housing office. Also, while individual meal plans may vary based on scholarship levels, amenities like training tables and nutrition zones should be equally accessible to all student-athletes as well. Athletic departments that employ a nutritionists should designate this individual to oversee this task.

Support Services

Any academic and personal/career development services that are provided by an institution also fall under the purview of Title IX.  Individuals in charge of programming these services should carefully monitor whether the programs of both genders are granted equal access.


Publicity can be a challenge since certain higher profile programs will naturally garner more public interest and attention, however departments should be aware that the resources they devote to promoting male versus female sports is a factor that will become part of the Title IX analysis.

Read part one of our Title IX series here

Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 is a piece of federal legislation that was enacted to prohibit discrimination within educational institutions.  While it is not specific to athletics, athletic programs that are a part of institutions that receive federal funding such as PELL grants, must comply with the statute. In recognition of the 50th anniversary of Title IX, let’s take a closer look to better understand what it is and what it isn’t.

We’ll start by addressing a few common misconceptions about how Title IX applies to college athletics.  

Title IX DOES NOT require: 

  • That there be an equal number of male and female athletes
  • That a school must sponsor the same number of male and female sports programs
  • That schools not in compliance with the legislation drop male sports programs

Title IX DOES mandate: 

  • That schools provide equal access to athletics programs
  • That all individuals participating in an athletics program receive equal treatment.  

We’ll come back to this in just a moment.

What is the three-part (or three-pronged) test?

You may have heard of the three-part test or the three-pronged test.  The terms are often used interchangeably, but they are one and the same.  The three-part test is a means by which athletic departments can assess their compliance with Title IX, however, this leads us to another common misconception.  

Meeting the three-part test does NOT ensure a department’s

compliance with Title IX.

Remember, earlier we discussed that there are two key elements of Title IX that must be met in order to be in compliance- equal access AND equal treatment.  The three-part test ONLY addresses access.  It does NOT address treatment, but we will in just a moment.  First, however, let’s break down how the three-part test can be used to assess compliance with equal access.

Equal Access

Equal access can be demonstrated in any one of three ways:

Test One- Proportionality

The proportionality test simply means that participation within an athletic program should mirror the overall enrollment at the school.  For example, if the total student body at a school was 60% female and 40% male, then the athletic participation numbers should also be roughly 60% female and 40% male. Pretty simple, right? Well, simple to understand, but not so simple to do, particularly for schools that sponsor teams with large male rosters like, say, football. For this reason, proportionality is a challenge for many athletic departments.  But, even if you can’t meet proportionality, you still have two more options.

Test Two- Continued Program Expansion for the Underrepresented Gender

If a school cannot meet proportionality, they can still meet Title IX by demonstrating that they are making a good faith effort to move in that direction. They can do this by expanding opportunities for the underrepresented gender through the addition of new sports programs.  I’ll pause here because this presents an opportunity to highlight another common misconception.

  • Women are NOT necessarily always the underrepresented gender. 

While it is true that this is usually the case, on campuses that have predominantly male student bodies (the military academies come to mind) it is possible that male student-athletes could be the underrepresented gender in terms of athletic participation.  Remember, proportionality is based on total school enrollment.

But back to program expansion, while it is a possible pathway to meeting the equal access requirement, it is perhaps the least practical for schools because adding sports likely means investing hundreds of thousands of dollars that most athletic department budgets simply don’t have. So if a school has not met proportionality, and can’t afford to add sports, then what?  There is still one more option?

Test Three- Accommodating the Interests and Abilities of the Underrepresented Gender

This is by far the most common route college athletic programs take to meet the equal access component of Title IX. This is typically assessed through the use of interest surveys that are completed by the student body.  If the sports programs currently offered by the school aligns with the sports that the underrepresented gender has indicated an interest in and an ability for, then a school may be said to be sufficiently providing access to athletic participation on these grounds. 

Check back next week for part 2 of our Title IX series.