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Law Group Files Amicus Brief to Support Title IX Case

The National Women's Law Center filed a "friend of the court" brief last week in support of the female athletes involved in Biediger et al. v. Quinnipiac, a case that's currently before a federal appeals court.

If the appeals court overturns the original decision, it could open the door for competitive cheerleading to count as a varsity sport for the purposes of Title IX.

A little background on the case: In March 2009, Quinnipiac University announced plans to cut three of its sports teams, including the women's volleyball team, while also pledging to turn competitive cheerleading into a new varsity sport.

In turn, five of Quinnipiac's women's volleyball players, along with their coach, sued the university for an alleged violation of Title IX, the federal legislation that requires schools that receive federal funding to provide equal educational and athletic opportunities for males and females. The players argued that the school's decision to eliminate volleyball in favor of varsity cheerleading was discriminatory on the basis of sex.

Lo and behold, a district court judge agreed with the volleyball players. In a July 2010 ruling Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader, District Judge Stefan R. Underhill said that Quinnipiac did violate Title IX by failing to provide equal athletic opportunities to females with the elimination of the women's volleyball team. The judge also ruled that competitive cheerleading "does not qualify as a varsity sport for the purposes of Title IX."

The court required Quinnipiac to submit a "compliance plan" within 60 days of the ruling, detailing how the school would satisfy the demands of Title IX—a plan that was required to "provide for the continuation" of the volleyball team through this past school year. (The school would be allowed to drop the women's volleyball team after the 2010-11 school year, provided it could remain in compliance with Title IX with other changes.)

Quinnipiac appealed the decision, and the case is now up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. If the women's law center has anything to say about it, the appeals court will side with the district court and not overturn the decision.

"The district court properly determined that Quinnipiac failed to provide substantially proportionate intercollegiate athletic opportunities for its female students when they were available, able, and interested in playing," said Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the NWLC, in a press release.

"Schools that manipulate the facts to make it appear that they comply with Title IX's promise of fairness cannot be allowed to evade their obligations under Title IX," she added.

In the brief, the NWLC also notes that the district court uncovered manipulation of athletic participation numbers at Quinnipiac. The judge determined that the school required female cross-country runners to register for both indoor and outdoor track (along with cross-country) to boost participation numbers.

If it's any condolence to Quinnipiac, it's not the only university in violation of Title IX, according to a New York Times report from earlier this year.

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