In a reversal, East Carolina University announced Thursday that it would reinstate its women’s swimming and diving and women’s tennis programs, effective immediately.
Those programs were dropped in May 2020 as part of budget reducing measures taken by the school in the wake of the pandemic, but members of both teams pushed back — threatening a class-action lawsuit.
According to ESPN, student-athletes in November said that they believed eliminating the programs constituted a Title IX violation.
In the release announcing the programs’ reinstatement, ECU athletic director Jon Gilbert addressed those concerns.
“We worked directly with a Title IX consultant on how best to address our compliance with Title IX while also addressing our financial issues.” Gilbert said. “Title IX is an ongoing commitment and it’s a priority for our university and athletics department.”
The school also announced plans to develop a Gender Equity Plan involving student-athletes from both programs, with the goal of providing the school with “a blueprint for assessing, monitoring and enhancing gender equity in intercollegiate athletics.”
Arthur Bryant, an attorney representing many of the student-athletes who planned the class-action suit, released a statement following the news.
"This is a major victory for women athletes at ECU, Title IX, and all who care about gender equity and the law," he said. "The elimination of these women's teams flagrantly violated Title IX. ECU should be praised for agreeing to reinstate the teams, develop a gender equity plan, and get into compliance with Title IX, but this settlement should put all schools on notice. If they violate Title IX, they will be held accountable."
The programs will begin hiring head coaches, and recruiting and scheduling competition will take place after the programs install coaches. Competition could begin as early as Fall 2021.