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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 8, 2010

College wrestling: Appeals court: Women can sue UC Davis

Associated Press Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — An appeals court said Monday it appears that the University of California, Davis violated federal law meant to promote gender equity in college athletics when it eliminated its women’s wrestling program.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit filed by three female wrestlers after the school essentially eliminated their sport by making them compete against males of the same weight after the 2000-2001 academic year.
The court turned aside the school’s argument that it had cut significantly from its men’s programs at the same time, ruling that the so-called Title IX law requires institutions receiving federal funding to show they are actively trying to expand women’s athletic opportunities.
In doing so, the appeals court also removed a legal technicality that a lower court imposed on female athletes requiring them to formally notify university officials when they believe a gender-equity violation has occurred before filing a lawsuit.
Title IX was passed in 1972 and signed by President Richard Nixon, requiring schools to offer equal athletic opportunities to men and women. Since then, many female students have sued high schools, colleges and amateur athletic conferences alleging violations of the law.
“We continue to find problems throughout the country finding equal opportunity in sports,” said Noreen Farrell, a lawyer with Equal Rights Advocates who represented the wrestlers.
In 2007, UC Davis settled a lawsuit for $725,000 by fired women’s wrestling coach Michael Burch, who claimed the university had retaliated against him for supporting the women’s lawsuit.
Last year, UC Davis settled another Title IX lawsuit by agreeing to within 10 years bring women’s participation in athletics to within 1.5 percent of its total female student body, which stood at 56 percent in the 2007-2008 academic year.
UC Davis spokeswoman Claudia Morain didn’t immediately return a telephone call.