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Title IX, originally conceived to protect women from gender discrimination, has had the unfortunate and unintended effect of significantly reducing opportunities for male athletes to compete in their sports at the collegiate level. The various Department of Education opinion letters interpreting Title IX and its regulations provide three routes by which universities can comply with Title IX’s requirement of equal opportunity for women to participate in collegiate athletics, one of which is proportionality between the percentage of athletic opportunities for women as compared to the percentage of women in the general population of the school. Circuit courts’ current interpretation of Title IX and its progeny has led schools to believe that proportionality is the only safe path for avoiding liability under Title IX, even if it means eliminating men’s teams. As a result, certain men’s sports, such as gymnastics, have virtually disappeared at the collegiate level.
In recent years, male athletes, faced with the elimination of their sports to achieve Title IX compliance, have brought lawsuits attempting to reverse this trend. However, these lawsuits have been universally unsuccessful in the circuit courts, leaving the odds of the reinstatement of teams or even the maintenance of current teams bleak. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has thus far refused to address this issue.
This Note begins by examining the text of Title IX, its implementing regulations, and subsequent opinion letters interpreting the regulations. It then analyzes circuit court responses to lawsuits by male athletes challenging Title IX or decisions made in attempt to comply with it. It also examines a pending Title IX challenge with the potential to avoid some of the downfalls of prior lawsuits. Finally, the Note argues that the Supreme Court should grant certiorari to address this issue and conclude that attempting to comply with Title IX by eliminating or capping the rosters of men’s teams is actually a violation of the statute.
Note Author: Victoria Langton
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