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Title IX & Student Conduct Code Blog

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Can a College or High School Cut or Reduce Funding for its Women’s Sports Teams under Title IX?

Prior to the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, only about 30,000 women participated in collegiate athletics, and women only received two percent of the athletic funds of colleges and universities. Today, nearly 200,000 women play college sports and during the 2009-2010 academic year, womens teams received 40 percent of athletic funds. While this is a huge improvement, bear in mind that women received less than half of athletic budgets even though they made up 53 percent of college students.

Improvements are positive, however, Title IX does not simply require that colleges and universities make improvements. The law requires that men and women receive equal treatment and opportunities in higher education, which includes collegiate athletics. Despite the law being in effect for more than 45 years, too many schools are still not in full compliance with Title IX requirements when it comes to the allocation of athletic funds. There is a lack of enforcement when it comes to athletic funding and Title IX compliance, so many schools simply get away with reducing or cutting funding for womens sports teams.

Attorney Felice Duffy has unique experience and knowledge of Title IX. As an undergraduate student, she helped facilitate the creation of a women’s soccer program by filing a Title IX action against UCONN. She also worked closely with women athletes as the head coach for the Yale Division I women’s soccer team. Our lawyers understand the unique challenges facing college athletes and we are here to help. Call Duffy Law at (203) 946-2000 or contact us online to get started on your case today.

Compliance With Title IX

There is a three-part test that is generally used to determine whether a schools athletic programs are in compliance with Title IX. Specifically, schools must provide equal athletic opportunities in three general areas:

(1) equal athletic participation opportunities (34 C.F.R. §106.41(c)(1));

(2) equal treatment and benefits to those with participation opportunities (34 C.F.R. §106.41(c)(2)-(9)); and

(3) equal athletic financial assistance (34 C.F.R. §106.37). At the present time, only the first and second prong– equal athletic participation opportunities and equal treatment and benefits — are at issue in this case.

Compliance in the area of the first prong of equal athletic participation opportunities is determined under the following three-part test:

  • Have the same number of men and women sports participants that is substantially proportionate to the enrollment of men and women in the school, or
  • Have programs that effectively and fully accommodate the abilities and interests of the underrepresented sex, or
  • Have a history and ongoing practice of expanding programs in response to the abilities and interests of the underrepresented sex.

This three-part test is important, as it indicates that Title IX compliance is not completely about the numbers. Proportionate numbers are highly important, though schools may still be considered in compliance if they are making proper accommodations or have a recent history of improvement in equity. In most situations, however, disproportionate data regarding sports participation and funding indicates that noncompliance remains a widespread issue.

Disparities in Collegiate Sports Programs

Title IX does not require colleges to spend the same amount on men’s and women’s sports programs. However, the amount spent must be proportional to the participation of each sex in college sports- this is true only for the third prong (the second prong equal benefits and treatment is not about proportional amounts). For example, under the third prong scholarships must be offered in proportion to the number of men and women who play sports. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR), which enforces Title IX, considers a school in compliance if the percentage of scholarship dollars allocated to each sex is within 1 percentage point of the percentage of sports participation. If women make up 40 percent of athletes at a particular school, women athletes should receive 39 to 41 percent of athletic scholarship funds.

Some schools are outside of the 1 percent range when it comes to scholarship funding for both sexes. If a school has a 2 percent disparity, the school may shrug it off as being close enough. However, even a 2 percent difference is a violation of the law and of the rights of women athletes.

When schools dedicate more funding—both for scholarships and operating expensesto mens sports than womens or give men a greater opportunity to play sports, the schools should be held fully accountable for Title IX violations. The problem is that OCR does not always pay close attention to these statistics and, therefore, enforcement is lacking. It is largely dependent on students or coaches to call such disparities to the attention of OCR by filing a Title IX complaint.

If you are considering filing a complaint, you should first discuss your situation with a highly experienced Title IX attorney. You need a lawyer who fully understand when a school is not in compliance with Title IX and who can use statistics and other evidence to prove your rights are being violated. This is a complex matter so you should not wait to call Duffy Law today for more information.

Cutting Funding for Womens Sports Teams

The University of North Dakota had the number six womens hockey team in the United States. Many of its players went on to win world championship medals and some were still involved in the UND program. However, after the 2106-17 season, the players and coaches for the womens hockey team learned via social media that the program was cut from the universitys budget. In addition, the President of the college reportedly said to the coach that Womens hockey is a boutique sport and never should have been at UND.

Obviously, having the funding for a sports team suddenly cut can be devastating for students. In some cases, this can violate Title IX. It requires a specific analysis of the overall athletic funding for each sex and whether it is proportionate to enrollment and athletic participation. Also, it depends whether a school cuts funding for both sexes or just one. There is quite a bit that goes into the analysis regarding whether or not a school violated Title IX and you need an attorney who fully understands this issue to fight for your rights.

Our Experienced Title IX Attorneys are Ready to Protect Your Rights

When it comes to athletic funding, determining compliance or noncompliance with Title IX is a complicated task that involves careful analysis of ever-changing data. It is important for students or coaches to voice their concerns if they believe their school is violating their rights by denying their sex the proper athletic funding. If you are thinking of stepping forward and speaking out, you need the right law firm on your side.

Led by Felice Duffy, the attorneys at Duffy Law regularly represent college athletes facing discrimination under Title IX, whether for unequal funding, facilities, or opportunities. We know what you’re facing, and we offer consultations. Call Duffy Law at (203) 946-2000 or contact us online now.

Felice Duffy

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Attorney At Duffy Law

Attorney Felice Duffy served as an Assistant United States Attorney for ten years after beginning her legal career at two prestigious firms (one in CT and one in NY) and then clerking for two federal judges. A life-long Title IX advocate, she brought a legal action under the then-new Title IX statute against UCONN while an undergraduate to compel the creation of its women’s varsity soccer program. She went on to become a first-team Division I All-American, was selected to be on the first U.S. National Women’s Team, and spent 10 years as Head Coach of the Yale women's soccer team. Attorney Duffy has Ph.D. in Education/Sports Psychology and has spoken to, and conducted trainings for, over 50 schools and organizations on a wide range of topics involving athletics, the law, and social justice. You can reach Felice at (203) 946-2000.