Men's Soccer; Amend it like Beckham

The solemnity of mornings on Corsair Field are similar to a religious gathering as a congregation of students pull up their socks and tie their cleats in preparation for the imminent class. Conversation is seldom and accented, often times not even in English. Communication here is instead expressed through play in a class as diverse as the United Nations. Surely if the leaders of the world were to play a sport it would be football, the beautiful game, otherwise known to us, North Americans, as soccer.

Dives, head-butts, and riots aren't just for politics.

And despite the fact that enrollment in soccer classes here often exceed available seating, a men's soccer at SMC is still noticeably absent in the athletic program.

"It's so bad," said Sisay Diribssa, 22, a beginning soccer student from Ethiopia who echoes the thoughts of many of his classmates.

Soccer classes at Santa Monica College have become a haven for those looking to appease their lust for soccer, and many enrolled in these classes, like Diribssa and twenty-year-old Aryan Sadat, have taken the course more than once.

The popularity of soccer here could be a testament to the worldwide appeal of the sport. SMC boasts a large international student population with over 3,000 international students enrolled. About ten percent of the entire student body at SMC.

An exposition of soccer's popularity lies in FIFA's estimation that last summer's World Cup Finals would be viewed by a live audience of 700 million, possibly making it the most watched sporting event of all-time. In comparison, the 2008 Beijing Olympic opening ceremonies had an audience of 600 million.

But the reasons behind the absence of a men's team actually lie in a gender equity law referred to as Title IX. Enacted in 1972, Title IX was meant to narrow the huge discrepancy between the number of male and female athletic programs throughout the country. And according to Joe Cascio, project manager of athletics at SMC, the number of athletes has to reflect the population of the student body.

The ratios for the fall 2009 semester show that 55.2 percent of SMC's population were female while 44.8 percent were male. Currently SMC is within the acceptable range and under compliance with Title IX, but still has too many male athletes.

To add another men's team in soccer, or even other sports such as baseball and tennis, would mean that the athletic department would have to cut an existing program or add another to the women's side. At present there are nine women's and seven men's programs, and the department's already considering adding women's golf.

Cascio went on to note that the athletic department's budget would not increase, and adding a sport would mean allocating from existing funding. However, men's soccer would be the most feasible to add only because of the resources already in place at SMC.

"I'm very interested in adding multiple additional sports," said Cascio. "Men's soccer is highly popular; we've had a great deal of interest on this campus and we'd love to find a way to make it happen for the students of Santa Monica College."

When asked how much enthusiasm there is for a men's team, Cascio quickly pointed out the group of international students who came to his office seeking answers.

"If it were a Santa Monica College policy that was stopping it; we could easily change it, but Title IX is a federal law," said Cascio.

Meanwhile, the students in Monday morning's beginning soccer class remain hopeful about the prospect of a men's team. "Every single day they're asking," said Tianna Oliver, beginning soccer instructor at SMC. She went on to claim that she feels that there's enough talent to field a men's team in her class alone.

Some of those students, including twenty-year-old Andre Jackson and his peers, displayed little hesitation expressing their interest in joining a men's team.

The immediate response seemed almost pre-meditated. "Definitely."

Added Jackson, "Is that even a question?"