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Guilford College Agrees to Improve Women's Athletics

Paul Steinbach

Guilford College has settled a discrimination lawsuit filed by two former coaches and 14 past and current women athletes who alleged that the private liberal arts institution in Greensboro, N.C., has a history of favoring its men's sports programs.

According to the News & Record of Greensboro, Guilford will expand and spend more money on its women’s sports program, improve conditions for its women athletes and form a new committee to monitor gender equity in athletics.

The 2017 federal lawsuit alleged that Guilford treated its male student-athletes far better than the women who played sports for the Quakers. The suit named both the college and former athletics director Tom Palombo.

The consent decree, a compromise agreed to by both the college and the plaintiffs, was signed by U.S. District Judge William Osteen Jr. on May 3, but details were only made available last week.

Guilford College president Jane Fernandes noted Wednesday that the federal court “made no determination that the college had done or is doing anything wrong. But we decided to use the opportunity to look hard at our athletics program and try some new things.

“We like the idea of attracting student-athletes who are interested in the sports we offer. Change can be a good thing, and collaboration that benefits everyone is always a good thing.”

As reported by the News & Record, Guilford College agreed to:

• Add two women’s varsity sports teams, which it did right after it signed the consent decree. Guilford announced in May that it would start a women's rugby team. A month later, it said it would launch a women's triathlon team. Both teams will recruit players in the 2019-20 academic year that starts in August and start play no later than 2020-21.

Fernandes said Wednesday that the college worked with current and former students to pick two sports that would appeal to women athletes. Rugby and triathlon, she said, “were the best fit for us.” Fernandes also said Wednesday that the triathlon team got a three-year grant from USA Triathlon, the sport’s governing body in the United States.

The two new sports brings Guilford’s total to 22 teams — 10, including football, for men and 12 for women.

• Provide better facilities and facility access for women’s teams. Among the changes: The women’s tennis team will get a locker room, the women’s swimming team will use the Greensboro Aquatics Center for practices and meets and the softball team will have “regular and equitable” access to indoor batting and pitching areas used by the baseball team.

Before the agreement was signed, Guilford opened six new women’s locker rooms last fall as part of a long list of campus improvements. A new softball stadium is scheduled to open next year.

• Develop what the decree calls a “consistent approach” for providing sports equipment and apparel to women athletes and “a uniform and gender-equal policy” to cover meals for all athletes when they’re traveling to and from games.

• Create equitable schedules for use of practice and game facilities and medical training facilities. The college also agreed to equitable social media publicity for both men’s and women’s teams.

• Spend an extra $10,000 annually for two years to recruit players for four women’s teams: swimming, track and field, cross country and tennis. Those four teams have smaller rosters than the average of other teams in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, the NCAA Division III conference that Guilford joined in 1991.

• Form an Equity in Athletics Committee to monitor Guilford’s compliance with the settlement. The 12-member committee will include the athletics director and other college administrators, at least two men’s and women’s team coaches, two current student-athletes and two plaintiffs, Taryn McFadden and Tess Stryk. McFadden played on the rugby club team, which isn’t considered a varsity sport, and graduated from Guilford in 2017. Stryk, a 2016 graduate, played soccer and ran track and cross country.

• Host at least one conference to teach leadership and teamwork to young women athletes. The plaintiffs will help plan and conduct the event.

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