Academic journal article The Sport Journal

NCAA Website Coverage: Do Athletic Departments Provide Equitable Gender Coverage on Their Athletic Home Web Pages?

Academic journal article The Sport Journal

NCAA Website Coverage: Do Athletic Departments Provide Equitable Gender Coverage on Their Athletic Home Web Pages?

Article excerpt

The Internet is a contemporary communication medium that provides sport organizations with the opportunity to communicate with both current and potential fan bases (Lombardo, 2007). In today's realm of sports media, the Internet has become a major media source for fan consumption. Currently, there are hundreds of millions of Internet users worldwide, and the number of individuals accessing the World Wide Web increases at a rapid rate each year (Internet World Stats, 2007). Particularly, the Web has become a primary outlet for news consumption. While only four percent of the population went online to access news in 1995, today nearly 26% of the population accesses news content on the Web on a weekly basis (The Pew Research Center [TPRC], 2007). Furthermore, of the individuals accessing the Internet regularly, 46.5% claimed that sports were a primary entertainment source while browsing the Web (TPRC, 2007).

The mass consumption of sports news on the Internet alone makes it essential for scholars to focus on the sports coverage being provided on the Web. In addition to the growing interest, the Internet is also a unique medium, because it provides athletic teams and programs with an outlet to promote their product to fan segments. As a result, intercollegiate athletic programs have the ability to control the coverage being provided to each of their individual teams on their athletic home Web page. Thus, the athletic departments also have the unique opportunity to control the gender coverage being provided on their individual websites.

Since the athletic programs are part of their coinciding universities, the expectation would be that the athletic departments are providing equitable gender coverage on their websites due to Title IX constraints. Under Title IX, athletic institutions are required to provide women with equal opportunities within the general benefits and services program areas (Policy Interpretation, 2007). More specifically, in the "laundry list" of items stated under the third category of Title IX, athletic programs are expected to provide equitable promotions for women (National Association for Girls and Women in Sport [NAGWS], 2007). While the Internet coverage makes up only a portion of the promotional activities within the athletic department, it is still a viable concern when focusing on gender equity within college athletic programs. Furthermore, due to the fact that the universities are part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), you would expect that the gender coverage would be equitable from an ethical standpoint as well. The current research attempted to understand the coverage provided on intercollegiate athletic websites by examining the gender coverage provided during an academic school year.

Review of Related Literature

In today's society, the media has a major influence on the beliefs of individuals residing within our culture (Duncan, Messner, Williams, & Jensen, 1994; Kane, 1988). In fact, Coakley (1998) explained that by ignoring certain aspects of female participation in sport, the sports media is essentially shaping the public's opinion on the value of female sports. Cunningham, Sagas, Satore, Amsden, and Schellhase (2004) added that "if girls and women are not represented in an equitable fashion by the media, then girls are not afforded the necessary exemplars to emulate" (p. 861). Thus, as a result, there is a chance that the future participation in sports can suffer, and as a result Pedersen (2002) explained that "females can lose out on the benefits provided in sports that can help them develop both professional and personal skills" (p. 420).

When focusing on past gender studies within sports settings, research has shown that women receive inequitable coverage allocations within each of the media outlets examined (Bishop, 2003; Cunningham, 2003; Duncan & Sayaovong, 1990). Recently, scholars have indicated that a difference exists in the gender coverage provided within for-profit (Cuneen & Sidwell, 1998; Fink & Kensicki, 2002) and not-for-profit (Huffman, Tuggle, & Rosengard, 2004) media outlets. …

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