Michigan State University is in violation of Title IX over its October 2020 decision to discontinue its men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs, however the university will not be forced to immediately reinstate the women’s program.
Instead, Michigan State was given 60 days to provide a Title IX compliance, according to a district judge's ruling Aug. 9.
“It makes little sense to require MSU to use its finite resources to temporarily reinstate the women’s swimming and diving team where, even if Plaintiffs succeed on their claims, MSU could chart a different course in a few months’ time,” the ruling stated, as reported by The Detroit News. “Those resources are better spent on what is more likely to be a sustainable course of compliance over the long term.
“Accordingly, the Court finds that the appropriate relief is to require MSU to submit a compliance plan to reduce or eliminate the existing participation gap for women.”
In January 2021, 11 women from MSU's swimming and diving teams sued the university, MSU president Samuel Stanley, former athletic director Bill Beekman and the board of trustees. The women sought an injunction and argued that MSU's decision violated Title IX legislation that requires universities to offer the equivalent number of sports opportunities to men as it does women, among other issues.
The request was denied in February 2021 by U.S. district judge Hala Jarbou, but an appeal to the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals led to a February 2022 ruling from a three-judge panel telling Jarbou to take another look at a request for a preliminary injunction. In a 2-1 opinion, the court said Jarbou miscalculated the “participation gap," a key issue when determining Title IX compliance.
The group of swimmers claim Michigan State overcounts athletes in women’s sports, but the court ruling did not support that claim.
“The Court is not persuaded that MSU overcounts participation opportunities for women and undercounts opportunities for men,” the ruling read. “With a possible exception for a couple of women on the crew team in the 2019-2020 season, MSU’s numbers appear to be accurate.”
When the program was eliminated, it was the first time the university cut a varsity sports program in 20 years, according to The News. At the time, Beekman cited financial problems stemming from the pandemic and infrastructure issues in making the decision.
The advocacy group, The Battle for Spartan Swim and Dive, has given Stanley a 37-page proposal for reinstatement of the programs.
In June, a group of student-athletes met with Stanley and said they were encouraged that they finally were able to get him to hear them out, but weren’t convinced Stanley is taking possible reinstatement seriously. This, despite swimming and diving parents and alums securing donor commitments that the advocacy group claims could fund both programs for at least the next four years.
"He said he would take a look at our proposals," Travis Nitkiewicz, a rising senior from Novi, told The News. "That's something. We're happy with that. It feels more productive than last year around this time.
"We hope he looked at it. He said he would."
Meanwhile, Michigan State last month asked the Supreme Court to hear the case. With the Court on summer recess, that decision is still a couple months away, The News reports.