Women’s sports continue to be added across the country as Title IX cases have gone the way of the student-athlete.
The Clemson University athletic department on Thursday announced the addition of women’s lacrosse and women’s gymnastics, while the University of St. Thomas reinstated its previously eliminated women’s tennis program.
Women’s tennis is immediately back on the table at St. Thomas, which announced in May that it was dropping men’s and women’s tennis at the end of the 2020-21 school year after “determining it was unable to adequately provide the conditions necessary to sustain an outstanding student-athlete experience at the Division I level for participants in the tennis programs.”
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The elimination of the women’s tennis team caused the players to threaten a Title IX lawsuit against the university.
“St. Thomas was compliant with Title IX as a Division III athletics program and will remain compliant as it transitions to Division I,” St. Thomas’ press release reads. “The University recognizes, however, that fighting a Title IX lawsuit would be extremely costly and time-consuming. St. Thomas would rather invest its resources in student initiatives, including the women's tennis program. Therefore, while the reasons for eliminating the programs remain sound, St. Thomas agreed to reinstate the women's team. The men's program will not be reinstated.”
St. Thomas announced it will conduct a gender equity review this year, and “develop and adopt, no later than March 15, 2022, a gender equity plan to demonstrate that all aspects of its intercollegiate athletic programs will remain in compliance with Title IX during future years.”
“Title IX has been the law for almost 50 years and St. Thomas blatantly violated it,” said Bailey Glasser's Arthur Bryant, lead counsel for St. Thomas' women's tennis players. “What is it about equality these schools don’t understand? Title IX requires schools to provide equal opportunities, financial aid, and treatment. Now, thanks to these young women, St. Thomas will. The women’s tennis team members stood up for their rights and forced the school to follow the law. They created a shining example of what women throughout the country can and should do—until all schools are providing gender equity, complying with Title IX, and giving them the equal opportunities, financial aid, and treatment the law requires.”
Clemson has followed a similar path since announcing in November 2020 that it was discontinuing men’s cross country, indoor track and outdoor track programs, effective June 2021 to “provide the department with both substantial cost savings as well as the ability for long-term Title IX compliance.” Those cuts never came, as a class action Title IX lawsuit was threatened and Clemson announced in April that it was reinstating the programs, settling with its athletes.
Part of reinstating the programs was “adding one or more women’s varsity sports in its continuing commitment to gender equity and to supporting our female students’ championship aspirations.”
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Those additions came to fruition when Clemson announced it expects to begin lacrosse competition in 2022-23, and gymnastics in 2023-24. Women’s gymnastics will be the ACC’s 28th sponsored sport.
“We are thrilled to be able to add these two high-profile women’s sports and expand opportunities for female student-athletes,” Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich said. “Over the past six weeks, we’ve heard from many representatives of various potential sports, and spent a great deal of time examining several possibilities and ultimately evaluating which sports would be best for Clemson Athletics. The combination of women’s lacrosse and gymnastics gives us the ability to compete for ACC and NCAA Division I Championships, and we know our community will embrace these new programs.”
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