As baseball and softball seasons approach, the U.S. Department of Education is looking into whether a rule that prohibits female high school softball players in New York from wearing metal cleats might be in violation of Title IX.

According to Newsday, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association received a letter back in December informing it of the Title IX investigation, which stems from an October complaint to the department’s Office for Civil Rights about the NYSPHSAA's ban on metal cleats for softball players. 

The investigation is specifically examining whether the rule "discriminates on the basis of sex by denying female softball athletes the opportunity to use metal cleats while allowing male baseball athletes to use metal cleats."

"Our softball committee has always said we'd rather not have metal cleats worn and nobody really objected to it," said Robert Zayas, executive director of NYSPHSAA. "We are a membership-led organization and none of our member schools has really expressed a desire to have their softball players wear metal cleats."

Zayas said the rule, which was decided upon about a decade ago, was entirely related to safety concerns.

"We just felt there was no need to change," said Whitman athletic director Jim Wright, now in his 16th year as Suffolk softball chairperson. "There was no outcry that we all had to go to metal."

For his part, Zayas had a positive spin on the investigation.

"They're bringing something to our attention and giving us an opportunity to go ahead and look at it, which I think is positive," he said. "Anytime we can take a look at something that may be a concern to someone or a group, and have the opportunity to evaluate it, I think that’s a good thing and that’s exactly what we're doing."

Andy Berg is Executive Editor of Athletic Business.