(U-WIRE) DAVIS, Calif. -- While Title IX revolutionized women's sports, a level playing field is a far cry from where athletics equality lies today. Although funding and the level of competition in women's athletics are at an all-time high, there is another side to the story.
By shifting the vantage point from the astonishing success stories of the intercollegiate women's athletics program to a focus on the status of men's sport clubs, the end product can sometimes be far from what meets the eye on the surface.
By looking into men's sports clubs such as volleyball, crew and lacrosse -- each of which has a university-sponsored ICA women's counterpart -- a new perspective of funding cuts and competitive gaps is unveiled.
With its funding cut and ICA status forfeited, the men's crew club at UC Davis is a prime example of the flipside of Title IX.
"As a club sport, we are pretty much entirely student-run," said men's crew president Charles Bisesto. "There's really very little help from the university. We fundraise money for ourselves, we set up all of our races, we hire our coaches -- we do all those logistical basics."
While the loss of funding is troubling, other elements have left the teams holding club status in the dark.
"We practice just as much, if not more, than our ICA teams, and we don't get priority registration," said men's crew vice president Jonathan Lieberman. "Our freshmen have to drive to the Port of Sacramento, and they won't give us parking permits -- it's little things. We're competing against other schools that are getting fully funded -- we just want to be able to operate the best we can."
Level playing field?
With so much of the daily focus on just maintaining and operating the club, the ability of clubs to compete at the highest level is held under fire.
"It's definitely very hard," Bisesto said. "You want to balance being a competitor -- trying to win every single race -- with all these logistical things. Teams like Cal, Stanford, Washington -- they're a part of the university. They're an ICA sport, and we compete against them. That adds a whole new dimension to the sport for us."
Pairing club maintenance with trying to reach the highest level of play yields an all but impossible task to accomplish.
"We're pretty much [ranked in the] top 25, but the most competitive teams have a coach who recruits and sets up camps," said men's lacrosse president Chris Zahner. "Within the structure that we have, our sports club department does a great job. But if we had the funding, if we had a coach -- those are some of the biggest differences."
To ICA or not to ICA?
While one may expect the men's clubs to be calling for their ICA reinstatement, that is not the case in this situation.
"We're not asking to be an ICA sport -- we don't need all that money," Lieberman said. "While it's a burden for us, [fundraising] is a part of being a UC Davis oarsman. We appreciate that -- it's part of what we do. We just want the small benefits -- things that the university can do to even the playing field. It doesn't need to be monetary. We're just trying to get enough money to survive."
With the burden of operating as a club sport comes the reward of truly appreciating what is being accomplished.
"It means a lot to us that we pay for what we do. We pay for every stroke we take, we pay for every time we're on the water," Bisesto said. "We don't have to be here, we want to be here."
But is a possible return to ICA status outside the mindset of all men's clubs at UC Davis?
"I think [regaining ICA status] would be awesome," Zahner said. "With that said, it is a great experience running a club. I feel like I put in a lot of work this year -- all the officers do. You learn about more than lacrosse, and that's part of the experience."
Even as the search for funding and a solid coaching staff come to the forefront, all the goals are geared toward the same final aim.
"Ultimately the goal is to be a virtual ICA team, just funded and run by us," Zahner said. "As the club grows, we're trying to make it so we can pay a full-time coach -- so that the full-time coach does have that authority. Once you hit that point where you can hire someone to do all this extra work, the growth is exponential."
Bridging the gap
A mainstay of the men's clubs is that no grudges are held against the outcomes of Title IX, yet these teams are actively pursuing alternatives.
"I think if people really knew what was going on behind the scenes, you'd have a lot more respect for a top-tier club athlete than you do an ICA athlete," Zahner said. "Not only are we practicing as much as ICA, we're doing everything off the field too. Once you see the other side of the story, it's not just a club sport anymore."
Looking to compete at the highest level, sport clubs are willing to accept any assistance they come across.
"What Title IX has done for women's sports is unbelievable. All we want is some sort of recognition," Bisesto said. "If we could just get those basic things -- it's not a big deal to us that we're not ICA. It's a bigger deal that the university doesn't help us with things that would make our lives so much easier."
With ICA status on the backburner, club teams have shifted their focus toward the public impact of the club.
"How can we make it so we're not so second-class?" Lieberman said. "We represent the university just as much as ICA teams. We're wearing 'UC Davis' just as much as the football team, the baseball team -- our actions reflect the university just as much."
And while the situation is far from perfect, the teams acknowledge that a brighter future is on the horizon.
"It's the situation that we're placed in," Zahner said. "It's getting better -- the organization level is awesome this year. I've been around in the past -- had meetings about this and that -- there's a lot of steps that have been taken this year to improve the sports club program. It's all going in the right direction."