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State NOW to file Title IX complaints against UCLA, USC

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Southern Cal and UCLA favor men's athletic programs over women's sports, according to discrimination complaints to be filed against both schools.

The California National Organization for Women will file the complaints Friday with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, said Linda Joplin, head of NOW's Athletic Equity Committee."I hope that both USC and UCLA take a serious look at their compliance at all levels, and use this opportunity to make the changes that should have been made 10, 15, 20 years ago," she said Thursday.

Congress passed Title IX in 1972, requiring schools that receive federal money to provide equal opportunities for female athletes. NOW wants the Office for Civil Rights to conduct in-depth investigations of athletic compliance at both universities.

If violations are found, the schools can negotiate a compliance agreement with the OCR. Law allows for the withholding of federal funding for schools not in compliance, but that rarely occurs, Joplin said.

NOW said it reviewed the last three years of Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act reports for UCLA and the last two years for USC.

Among its findings was that UCLA's women's basketball team was allocated $295,684 for operating expenses in '97-'98, while the men's team received $552,241 -- 1.8 times as much.

"I think we can stand behind what we've done for our women student-athletes. What we're doing isn't a smoke screen," said Betsy Stephenson, associate athletics director at UCLA. "I believe we have a commitment and a plan to be in compliance with Title IX."

Joplin doesn't agree that because UCLA men's basketball generates more revenue than the less successful women's team, the men should receive greater funding. The UCLA men were national champions in 1995.

"There's a lot of cases around the country where women's teams are filling up the available space in the auditoriums and bringing in just as much money," Joplin said. "With the proper support, that can happen and that brings in more money for the whole program."

Stephenson said UCLA doesn't compare funding for the men's and women's basketball teams. "We fund our programs to be nationally competitive," she said.

At USC, the women's basketball team received $129,626 for expenses in '96-'97, while the men's team received $809,570 -- more than 6.2 times as much.

Todd Dickey, general counsel for USC, said the football and men's basketball teams raise most of the money needed to support the athletic program.

"At USC, most of the women's teams are funded by money that's raised from the two men's sports," he said. "Men's basketball generates many times the revenue that women's basketball generates."

NOW also wants UCLA to upgrade women's lacrosse and women's crew to varsity status by the start of the 1999-2000 academic year. They have been club sports since 1992, the last year UCLA added soccer and water polo as varsity sports for women.

Stephenson said lacrosse and crew would not be upgraded.

USC added soccer and water polo for women in 1993, and now has 10 women's sports compared with nine for men. NOW wants the school to add varsity women's softball and lacrosse. Dickey said USC would consider it.

"We have been looking into various ways to increase participation in women's sports and to generally equalize the men's and women's sports programs," he said. "I think most universities with athletic programs have room for improvement."