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Coaching Groups to Keep Up Fight Over Title IX

Coaching Groups to Keep Up Fight Over Title IX


A coalition of college coaching associations, aiming to change the way a major sports anti-discrimination law is enforced, will press its legal fight on two fronts.

The College Sports Council announced plans last month to sue the U.S. Department of Education over its July decision to keep enforcing Title IX as it has for years. The council contends that federal policy forces schools to cut or cap men’s teams to keep women’s sports teams in proportion.

The council will also ask a federal appeals court to reverse the decision of a district court, which in June threw out a Title IX suit by the council and other groups. In that case, the judge ruled the groups had no standing to sue because they couldn’t show their concerns about men’s sports would be fixed even if they won, a point the coaches dispute.

Both legal moves seek to eliminate the cornerstone of the department’s enforcement: the “three-part test,” so named because it gives schools three methods to comply with the law.

Title IX bars discrimination based on sex by any school that receives federal money. Schools can meet the law’s test by showing a pattern of expanding opportunities for women or by proving the sports interests of women have been met. The third disputed option says a school must provide sports opportunities for men and women in proportion to their enrollments.

“We will not be deterred by politicians and gender quota activists who stand in the way of fairness,” said Eric Pearson, chairman of the council, which includes coaches of track, wrestling, gymnastics and baseball.

An Education Department spokeswoman said the agency could not comment on the suit or the request to the appeals court, neither of which had been filed at press time.

Department leaders, after a lengthy commission review and heated public debate over Title IX, clarified their policies without changing them (see Black Issues, Aug. 14). Among other steps, they informed colleges that cutting men’s sports is disfavored and reminded them they have choices for compliance.

But council leaders say education officials backed away from their own reform process. In its new suit, the council also says the agency based its latest ruling on flawed statistics.

Women’s sports advocacy groups say the department has rightly reinforced Title IX and underscored that the law shouldn’t be blamed when colleges cut sports programs.

Leslie T. Annexstein, senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, said numerous court rulings have upheld that Title IX is enforced fairly and with flexibility.

“It sounds like they’re recycling the same arguments on a different day,” she said of the new court challenges.

— Associated Press and news releases

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