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Tennis Cut, St. Thomas Players Threaten Title IX Action

Tabatha Wethal

Varsity women’s tennis players at the University of St. Thomas and their attorney are threatening legal action against the university after women’s and men’s teams were cut this month.

According to a TommieMedia report, attorney Arthur Bryant wrote in a letter dated May 20 to university President Julie Sullivan threatening to sue "for depriving women athletes and potential athletes of equal participation opportunities" and alleging that the university is in violation of Title IX laws.

Title IX says "no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

The university's athletics department did not "have any new comment on the story," TommieMedia reported.

The St. Thomas athletic department announced on May 11 that it could not "adequately provide the conditions necessary" to field competitive Division I tennis programs, including a lack of dedicated tennis facilities.

Bryant said Title IX "prohibits educational institutions receiving federal funds from eliminating women’s teams for which interest, ability, and competition are available unless 'intercollegiate level participation opportunities for male and female students are provided in numbers substantially proportionate to their respective enrollments.'"

The letter included data from the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act, which indicated that St. Thomas had 2,883 female and 3,272 male undergraduate students in the 2018-2019 school year, meaning that women made up 46.83% of its undergraduate population. Eliminating women’s and men’s tennis would increase the 8.77% gap between the female student enrollment and female student-athlete population at St. Thomas to 9.24%. Bryant said to achieve gender equity, St. Thomas would need to add 148 participation opportunities for women.

If St. Thomas doesn't restore women's and men's tennis, or reveal its plans for Title IX compliance, Bryant said he will file suit and seek a preliminary injunction to reinstate the women's team.

The university's Varsity Tennis Announcement FAQ addressed the question, "How is St. Thomas' Title IX compliance affected?" by saying "This was not a decision related to Title IX."

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