YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The Nation

U.S. Judge Rejects Wrestling Coaches' Challenge to Title IX

They have no standing to claim their profession and teams were harmed in favor of women's sports, he rules.

June 12, 2003|David G. Savage | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Wednesday threw out a lawsuit brought by college wrestling coaches who said their profession and their teams were threatened by a government quota policy that favors women's collegiate sports.

The decision amounted to a technical disqualification.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said the coaches do not have standing to demand that the Department of Education drop its regulations enforcing Title IX, the 1972 law that opened a new era in sports for women and girls.

But the case is far from over, said a lawyer for the National Wrestling Coaches Assn.

"We're very confident of our chances in the Court of Appeals," said Lawrence J. Joseph, the group's Washington lawyer. "We believe proportionality rule is a quota" and deserves to be struck down, he said.

The wrestling coaches contend that Title IX has been transformed from a nondiscrimination rule into a kind of affirmative-action policy that favors female athletes over males.

In 1972, Congress said schools and colleges receiving federal funds may not exclude any person from participating in their programs "on the basis of sex." Lawmakers said they were determined to end the "massive, persistent patterns of discrimination" against women.

Since then, there has been debate over how to enforce this measure, which -- although designed to cover all aspects of college life -- has had its greatest effect on athletic programs.

In 1979, the Carter administration adopted an enforcement measure saying that colleges and universities would be considered in compliance with Title IX if the ratio of male and female athletes was proportional to the percentages of men and women in the student body. If half the students were women, for example, half the athletes should be also.

This was not an absolute rule, but a guideline to measure compliance. In 1996, however, Education Department lawyers in the Clinton administration said they would bring enforcement actions against colleges and universities that did not comply.

The coaches said this policy forced several colleges to drop their men's wrestling teams. They said wrestling teams were either discontinued or downgraded at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, Marquette University in Wisconsin and Yale University in Connecticut.

In their lawsuit, the wrestling coaches said the Education Department's enforcement rule should be voided because it goes beyond the law.

Wednesday's decision could put more pressure on the Bush administration to act.

During his campaign for the White House, President Bush signaled that he was sympathetic to the challenge brought by male athletes.

In February, Education Secretary Rod Paige convened a panel to review the Title IX regulations, but he has not moved to change the rules.

In his 119-page opinion, Sullivan pointed out that eight appeals courts in the past have considered challenges to the Title IX regulations, but all ended up affirming the rules.

Los Angeles Times Articles