College Wrestling and Title IX

National Wrestling Coaches Association Lawsuit

On June 11, the National Wrestling Coaches Association lawsuit brought against the United States Department of Education was dismissed. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan stated that the National Wrestling Coaches Association failed to prove that men’s teams were dropped as a result of Title IX. In addition, the court said, “The NWCA also failed to show that the teams which had been eliminated would have been reinstated even if Title IX were altered.”

The National Wrestling Coaches Association had maintained that Title IX’s three-part test to determine acceptable participation compliance, in fact, created an unfair quota system.

The court further stated that Title IX’s policies allow a degree of flexibility for institutions in their decisions with regard to structuring their athletics/sports programs. The court said that in addition to equal opportunity considerations, additional factors may also affect those decisions and that it wasn’t shown that Title IX had the impact that the National Wrestling Coaches Association was vigorously suggesting.

The president of the Women’s Sports Foundation, Dawn Riley, was pleased with the decision. She felt that the decision accurately reflects the law’s original intent, which was equitable treatment for male and female school athletes. On behalf of the Women’s Sports Foundation, she stated that the foundation applauded the court’s decision, which allows all concerned to focus on the future and ultimate achievement of Title IX’s inspiring promise of equality for all.

District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan’s decision made it explicitly clear that the decision to cut men’s teams from sports programs is not solely or directly related to Title IX. Any determinations resulting in a men’s team being eliminated are based on numerous unrelated factors.

The court was also quick to recognize the importance of Title IX as a “landmark” civil rights statute. The significant flexibility and implementing policies of Title IX built into the Department of Education’s enforcement considerations, in fact, negated any allegations of “quotas”—it was pointed out.

The court adamantly stated that the Title IX policies have been unanimously upheld by every appellate court having considered the issue.

The court also noted that it was a “landmark” statute in that it was enacted specifically to remedy sports participation discrimination against female high school and college athletes. Furthermore, despite the inclusion of Title IX, girls are still receiving 58,000 less opportunities for college athletic participation and 1.1 million less opportunities in high schools’ athletics programs.

The National Wrestling Coaches Association may appeal the decision to the DC Circuit and has 60 days to submit their appeal. For the time being, however, the decision by District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan eliminates any legal reasons for the secretary of education to make any alterations to the Title IX guidelines for compliance.

The Coalition for Women and Girls in Education’s members, including the Women’s Sports Foundation, vehemently implore the secretary to vigilance in its enforcement of Title IX and to prevent further efforts to diminish the importance and relevance of the compliance guidelines and policies.

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