East Carolina University is settling a lawsuit over a Title IX complaint for $200,000.
When COVID-19 spread across the country, it forced businesses to close and schools switched to online learning. The pandemic has also had consequences for college athletes. In fact, many schools have since done away with certain sports that aren’t as profitable as, say, big college football programs. Some students are pushing back, though, and some are winning. For example, East Carolina University recently settled a lawsuit for nearly $200,000 and will reinstate the women’s swimming and diving and tennis teams.
When commenting on the settlement, Ron Mitchelson, in school’s Interim Chancellor said, “in terms of money, the settlement was better for the university than potential litigation.” The school will pay for the settlement using funds from a university trust fund.
The suit was originally filed because back in May, the school did away with its men’s and women’s swimming and diving and tennis for monetary reasons. Jon Gilbert, the university’s Athletic Director, said, “When we eliminated the programs we had a savings of about $2.6 million.”
However, canceling the programs quickly became a Title IX concern, according to the lawsuit. Why? Well, doing away with the programs, especially the ones for female athletes, “left the school with too few women’s sports.”
Title IX is designed to help prevent discrimination in education and school sports. When commenting on the matter, Mitchelson said:
“We knew we had to make adjustments…Roster management was going to be the primary tool. It became clearer and clearer given through self-scrutiny of the numbers… that because of increase of female proportion, we are headed towards a 60/40 split female to male — that we were going to have difficulties doing that with just roster management.”
Didn’t the school foresee this type of complaint from affected students, though? Well, when asked about it, Gilbert responded that “when a university cuts programs, there is also a possibility of litigation.” He added, “We knew that was a possibility, and ultimately we made a decision, a business decision based on where we were from a financial standpoint.”
He further noted that while the school has the funds to cover the settlement, the funding will come “from an already strained budget.” The school has until the end of January to pay the settlement fund to the female athletes and attorneys.
The school is going to begin looking for athletes and coaches this month, “and there are no plans to add any more sports at this time.”