The fight over whether or not certain sports programs at Eastern Michigan University will be reinstated is ongoing, but one thing seems clear: if women’s tennis and softball do come back, they’ll play as independents, at least for a year.
That’s what EMU president James Smith said last week. According to mlive.com, Smith’s comments came after an attorney representing student-athletes seeking the programs’ reinstatement said in court that the Mid-American Conference is refusing to put EMU teams on the schedule for the upcoming seasons.
“(Mid-American Conference commissioner Jon Steinbrecher) was somewhat vilified by the plaintiff’s attorneys for saying that ‘I can’t ask the other MAC teams to redo their busing schedules, to redo their hotel accommodation schedules for Eastern Michigan,” Smith said. “If Eastern comes back and plays a sport or two sports, or whatever it might be, they’re going to have to compete for this year as an independent. They’ve set their schedules.”
The MAC is in a tough spot as the lawsuit unfolds. As Steinbrecher pointed out in a statement, the conference is not a party in the suit.
“It is our position that instead of blaming the conference, efforts should be focused on resolving the issues in the lawsuit,” Steinbrecher said.
The fight over the sports programs could hinge on the Title IX implications of eliminating the two women’s programs. An earlier court ruling by U.S. District Court Judge George Caram Steeh found a “clear showing that (EMU is) in violation of Title IX.”
EMU made the decision to eliminate the sports, as well as men’s wrestling and swimming and diving, in March amid an effort to reduce its athletics budget. Mlive.com reports that those cuts impacted 58 male and 25 female student-athletes.
A court meeting between the two parties is set for Nov. 27. Any plans formulated during that meeting will include the two programs in question competing independently, at least for the 2018-19 season.