Appeals Panel Lifts Deadline on EMU Softball Reboot

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A three-judge appeals panel has ruled that Eastern Michigan University does not need to honor a lower court's order to hire a women's softball coach by April 1 in the interest of restarting the program in the fall, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The panel, representing the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, was compelled to lift the hiring deadline after EMU argued reinstating softball this year to shore up Title IX disparities within its athletic department would cause the department fiscal harm. Moreover, costs inflicted by the reinstatement timeline wouldn't even benefit remaining softball players on campus, whose scholarships are nonetheless being honored. "No one challenges the budgetary challenges facing the university," the panel wrote, "and no one doubts they animated the university’s choices."

Related: Eastern Michigan Ordered to Reinstate Softball, Tennis

In its appeal, EMU took exception to what it considered overreach by the district court, which ruled on the lawsuit filed last June by two female student-athletes — a softball player and a tennis player. "Title IX does not permit federal judges to serve as athletic directors," the university's lawyers wrote in the appeal. "If the preliminary injunction stands, EMU will be forced to divert resources from the creation and expansion of other women’s sports programs that it believes offer greater opportunity for female student-athletes in a far more economically sustainable manner. These potential harms are even more acute because EMU faces severe budget issues. The injunction also offends the public interest in federalism and comity by substituting a federal judge’s views on how to run a university athletic department for those of the elected and appointed public officials responsible for the academic, financial, and general well-being of EMU."

The appeals panel suggested the district court insist that EMU prepare a Title IX-complaint proposal by the start of the 2019-20 academic year, shifting focus to tennis. "That will allow the court to assess the degree to which the re-creation of the women’s tennis team corrects the Title IX deficiencies and determine what the university plans to do going forward to correct any remaining deficiencies," the panel wrote.

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