The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) holds its annual convention Jan. 10-13 in Phoenix. Talk of Name, Image, and Likeness compensation rules and debate about whether college athletes are employees of universities are certain to dominate proceedings. The NCAA "Woman Athlete of the Year" will also be announced.
None of this agenda matters for current and future college female athletes so long as the very question of what it means to be a woman athlete in women’s sports remains up for grabs.
Incoming NCAA President Charlie Baker had his moment to take the reins and address this high-profile failure in women’s sports – and he missed it.
In the glow of his announcement to succeed Mark Emmert just over a year ago, Baker was cast in a favorable light as an executive who could navigate rough waters and tough issues. His tenure as the Republican governor in liberal Massachusetts surely proved this.
Women’s organizations standing for the rights of female athletes, like Concerned Women for America, responded to the news with optimism. Baker’s appointment was a sign that a reset might be possible.
Rough waters only intensified last year as NCAA women saw institutions selling them down the river declaring males could claim their identity and make better female athletes. Lia Thomas’ domination in Division I women’s swimming, including being nominated "Woman Athlete of the Year" by the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth. For women athletes, it was betrayal.
But Baker never hit the reset button – not even pause. He has only dodged and capitulated.
It’s been a year of steady disappointment under Baker’s watch – no policy review – no apology – no course correction. It proves he had no intention to lead, only to excuse himself – a tactic he tried in a recent appearance before a Senate committee.
Baker’s inaction is an endorsement of the wrong-headed transgender policy peddled by the Women’s Sports Foundation in 2010 that Emmert and the NCAA simply repackaged as its own.
Now, it’s Charlie Baker who owns the failures of where this trans inclusion policy was bound to lead.
NCAA swimming added two cases since the Thomas debacle: Roanoke College in Virginia and Ramapo College in New Jersey.
Emboldened by the outcry against Thomas, Roanoke’s swim team captains stood up for themselves and summoned the courage of their squad. They took a stand against the university and the NCAA, forcing the former Roanoke men’s team swimmer, now identifying as a woman, off the roster for the women’s team.
On the flip side, Ramapo College women are reaping the same rotten fruit of foul NCAA policy as Paula Scanlan and her teammates at Penn. Like the case with Lia Thomas, school records are being broken in women’s swimming by a male athlete on the team. Every female swimmer forced to compete with trans-identifying male Meghan Cortez-Fields is now a victim of sex discrimination in her own sport.
Researchers in the United Kingdom just backed up the case for women’s sports remaining female only. Studying the outcome of the "nonbinary" athlete category in 21 New York Road Runners races, researchers found that the actual sex of the athletes – male or female – was the best predictor of performance.
For most people, this is common sense, not rocket science. As the husband and father of female athletes, Baker should know this and know better.
Yet Charlie Baker hasn’t shown the courage or capacity to stand by science or fairness. Not even against sexual harassment in the locker room, where female swimmers were forced to encounter male Lia Thomas in full display.
Even Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, who is peddling the erasure of the female sports category by rewriting Title IX rules forcing gender identity as the new standard, admitted that giving Thomas access to undress in female locker rooms constituted sexual harassment. But Baker won’t.
NCAA women athletes have already lost trophies, lost privacy rights, and now are on the brink of losing scholarships.
With the 2023 NCAA volleyball championships underway, news broke of a Division I scholarship being promised to a California trans-identifying male volleyball player who has been participating on girls’ teams under the radar. The soon-to-be rising senior made a verbal commitment to the University of Washington for the 2024-25 season.
It doesn’t take imagination to see how recruitment wars for trans-identifying males dominating women’s sports begin.
Awarding a male-born athlete one of 12 coveted women’s scholarships adds insult to the injury inflicted on female athletes. It multiplies the degradation of women’s sport, already leading to devastating safety risks like career-ending concussions on the volleyball court.
These wrongheaded trans policies overturning integrity and equal opportunity in women’s sports are causing chaos and real consequences.
Failure to course correct a destructive transgender inclusion policy that has never been grounded in science, justice or common sense is now on NCAA President Charlie Baker’s watch and will be his legacy fair and square.
Scholarships and endorsement deals going to males who promote themselves as women athletes should be the last straw. What is Charlie Baker going to do about it?