The University of Connecticut women’s rowing team has been saved for the time being.
According to The Associated Press, U.S. district judge Stephen Underhill issued a temporary restraining order Wednesday that will prevent UConn from immediately eliminating the women’s rowing team. The UConn Board of Trustees voted last June to cut the team, along with men’s tennis, men’s swimming and diving, and men’s cross country, after the 2020-21 school year.
A group of rowing alumni filed a Title IX complaint in March, while rowers filed a federal lawsuit in April alleging UConn’s plan to eliminate rowing violated Title IX, which guarantees equal access to women in education.
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Underhill ruled Wednesday that the rowers were likely to prevail in their lawsuit, finding compelling evidence that UConn has been inflating the participation numbers in its women’s programs to make it appear as though it was complying with Title IX.
“Plaintiffs have shown that it is substantially likely that UConn is not presently in compliance with Title IX’s effective-accommodation mandate, and cutting the women’s rowing team would only exacerbate that noncompliance by magnifying UConn’s disparity in athletic participation opportunities,” Underhill wrote, noting that evidence showed UConn experienced participation gaps for each of the past 13 years.
UConn rowing coach Jennifer Sanford testified that she was told to keep her roster at 60, while 40-42 are required for a viable Division I team. When announcing the cuts last summer, UConn said the goal was to reduce its $42 million athletic deficit by about $10 million a year. According to the AP, UConn’s annual filing with the NCAA showed the rowing team had a 38-rower roster but had 62 participants and operating expenses of $1,345,104 in the 2020 fiscal year.
The AP reported that UConn issued a statement saying that the ruling is “inconsistent with longstanding guidance provided by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.”
A hearing on the rowers’ motion for a preliminary injunction is scheduled for Aug. 2.
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