After William & Mary cut seven varsity sports teams in September, the women’s teams threatened a Title IX lawsuit.
In response, the college reinstated the women’s gymnastics, volleyball and swim teams and agreed to pay the clients’ costs and attorney fees by Nov. 19.
To the tune of $124,866.90.
RELATED STORY: W&M reinstates women’s sports teams to comply with Title IX
Carrie Nee, the university’s attorney, wrote in an email to the women’s teams attorney, Arthur H. Bryant of Bailey & Glasser LLP, that the decision was made to “avoid the expense of litigation and without admitting liability.”
“Your clients claim that decision violates Title IX,” Nee wrote. “On October 19, 2020, partially to resolve your clients’ potential claims, the university will publicly announce that it is rescinding its decision to eliminate women’s gymnastics, women’s swimming and women’s volleyball and is reinstating and continuing these three teams going forward.”
“The three women’s teams will be treated equitably with the other varsity teams at the university,” she added.
In addition, Nee noted W&M would conduct a gender equity review with a plan to ensure the college’s Title IX compliance by Aug. 30, 2021.
“All current athletes will be provided the opportunity to contribute to the gender equity review and the university will expressly invite participation from the teams that were identified for elimination,” Nee added. “The university retains discretion as to how to achieve gender equity and Title IX compliance within the financial constraints facing its Athletic Department.”
“In consideration for the above, your clients will execute a release of claims in the format enclosed,” she added.
On Sept. 23, Bryant told W&M President Katherine Rowe the sports cuts violated Title IX and to reinstate the teams.
He gave the college a deadline of Sept. 30 to respond.
Nee told Bryant the college could avoid a Title IX lawsuit without reinstating the teams by shifting the number of roster spots, adding more spots to women’s teams and reducing spots on the men’s teams.
“Taking into account the full scope of changes to William & Mary’s sports offerings for the 2021-22 academic year, the university will provide 56.81% of its athletic opportunities to women,” she wrote. “This offering is substantially proportionate to the undergraduate enrollment rate for women which was 58.07% for the 2019-20 academic year.”
“Although preliminary data indicate that there will be no significant movement in the enrollment rate for the 2020-21 year, William & Mary is prepared to make further participation adjustments if needed to achieve Title IX compliance,” Nee added. You can read the full letter here.
On Sept. 3, Rowe, Provost Peggy Agouris and former Athletics Director Samantha Huge announced in an open letter the following sports were cut effective in the 2021-2022 academic year because of the coronavirus pandemic and to comply with Title IX: men’s swimming, gymnastics and outdoor and indoor track teams and the women’s swimming, volleyball and gymnastics teams.
In the weeks following the announcement, the college community discovered the open letter had been plagiarized by Stanford University’s open letter announcing their own sports cuts.
In response, some faculty members prepared to issue a vote of no confidence in Huge’s leadership and demand her resignation. Bryant threatened a Title IX lawsuit on behalf of the women’s teams.
On Oct. 6, Huge resigned and was replaced by Rowe’s chief of staff, Jeremy Martin, to serve as interim athletics director.
Less than two weeks later, W&M reinstated the women’s teams to comply with Title IX.
On Thursday, Rowe announced the men’s gymnastics, swimming and indoor and outdoor track & field would be reinstated through the 2021-2022 academic year.
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