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Student-Athletes Threaten Lawsuits Against Clemson

Jason Scott

A group seeking to save Clemson University’s men’s track and field program has reportedly hired a lawyer and threatened a lawsuit against the school if it follows through on its plan to eliminate the program following this academic year.

ESPN reports that Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich announced plans to cut the team, along with the men’s cross country program, in November. Radakovich cited budget concerns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and Title IX concerns as reasons for eliminating the programs. 

The track group has hired Oakland-based attorney Arthur Bryant to argue that, in fact, by cutting men’s programs, Clemson risks Title IX violations by providing too few opportunities for male student-athletes to compete. 

Bryant penned a letter to school president James Clements, in which he reportedly states that Clemson’s student body is about evenly split between men and women, but that the athletic department would have 318 female athletes and only 229 male athletes if it follows through on its plans to cut the track program.

“[U]nless Clemson agrees to preserve the men's track and field and cross country teams or has some plans for compliance with Title IX we do not yet know, we will seek a preliminary injunction preserving and continuing these teams," Bryant wrote in the letter.

Meanwhile, a group of female student-athletes at Clemson have threatened legal action of their own, demanding that the school provide more financial aid. 

Lori Bullock, whose firm Newkirk Zwagerman represents the female athletes, told ESPN that her clients are hoping that the school will work to ensure Title IX compliance on all fronts. 

"They like having the counterpart men's team. They both make each other better," Bullock said. "My clients hope that Clemson understand that what is really important is all-around gender equity for everyone that will make the athletic program the best that it can be. They love going to Clemson. They love playing for Clemson. They just want everything to operate the way it's supposed to."

Newkirk Zwagerman and Bryant, who works for the firm Bailey Glasser, have worked together to put pressure on numerous athletic departments who had announced plans to eliminate programs over the past year, according to ESPN. Schools threatened with lawsuits have included William & Mary, East Carolina University, UNC-Pembroke and Dartmouth — all of whom have reversed course on cutting teams.

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