Wednesday, May 29, 2002
Updated: May 30, 11:09 AM ET
Ruling says lawsuit should be thrown out
WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration defended a 30-year-old federal law that has greatly expanded women's athletic programs, arguing Wednesday that a lawsuit by male college coaches and athletes should be thrown out.
The lawsuit, filed in January in federal district court by the
National Wrestling Coaches Association, says the law -- meant to
ensure equal educational and athletic opportunities for men and
women -- instead hurts lower-profile male sports.
The 1972 statute known as Title IX prohibits any school or
college that receives federal funding from discrimination based on
sex in sports or academics.
Because nearly all schools receive some federal aid, women have
gained the opportunity to play many more sports under Title IX. But
hundreds of men's sports programs have been cut nationwide, with
Title IX often cited as the reason. Sports such as wrestling,
swimming and track and field have been hit particularly hard.
Federal regulations say schools can comply with Title IX by
showing that opportunities for women are "substantially
proportionate'' to their enrollment, correspond to the level of
students' interest, or are being increased through the addition of
The suit against the Education Department contends that many
colleges and universities have trimmed men's sports -- rather than
adding women's teams -- to achieve equality.
Numerous lawsuits have been unsuccessfully brought against
individual schools for such decisions. The NWCA suit challenges the
federal rules themselves, asking the court to force new rules that
define compliance as providing opportunities for female athletes
based on interest, instead of enrollment.
In its response, the government said the suit should be
dismissed because only the individual schools can right the wrongs
the groups claim have been committed. Even if that were not so, the
department argued, federal law governing how agencies can be sued
and an expired six-year statute of limitations preclude the suit.
"Plaintiffs have not and cannot demonstrate any likelihood that
a favorable judgment in this action would have any substantial
impact on decisions by educational institutions regarding which
sports to include in their athletic programs,'' said the brief
filed by Justice Department lawyers on the Education Department's
NWCA Executive Director Mike Moyer dismissed the government's
"We don't believe it in any way diminishes the strength of our
position,'' he said. "We're going to remain very confident that
we're going to restore Title IX to its original intent.''
Supporters of Title IX agree that women's opportunities
shouldn't be increased by restricting men's. But they say the fault
lies not with the law, but with universities that choose to
eliminate entire teams rather than cutting idle players or dollars
from popular sports such as football and basketball.
The National Women's Law Center cites studies that have shown
that the majority of schools come into compliance without cutting
men's teams or relying on comparisons to enrollment, and that men's
participation in athletics has increased as well as women's.
A reply from the NWCA is due by June 10.