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Lawsuits & Litigation

Stanford Hit with Lawsuit Over Plans to Eliminate Certain Sport Programs

— May 17, 2021

Stanford student athletes recently filed a lawsuit after the school announced plans to eliminate a number of sports.

Student-athletes at Stanford filed two federal lawsuits after the university announced plans to eliminate 11 sports at the end of the school year. According to the suit, eight of the 11 teams allege the school’s athletic department “knowingly deceived athletes with its secret plan to eliminate varsity teams from the students and their families in order to fraudulently induce the students to choose to attend, and remain, at Stanford, rather than pursue their dreams to play at the varsity level at another institution.”

Lady Justice; image by Tingey Injury Law Firm, via
Lady Justice; image by Tingey Injury Law Firm, via

At the moment, the sports on the chopping block include “men’s and women’s fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, coed and women’s sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men’s volleyball, and wrestling.” In one of the suits, the students argue that “cutting women’s sports teams would violate Title IX law.” 

The school announced last summer that it was planning to eliminate 11 of the 36 varsity programs. The decision came on the heels of a “yearlong deliberation about how to be competitive on a national stage and remain financially sound at the same time.” The school added that the “financial challenge presented by COVID-19 underscored the notion that they could not afford to properly fund three dozen varsity programs.”

Stanford isn’t alone. In fact, since spring 2020, “35 Division I schools have announced plans to shutter, indefinitely suspend or downgrade a total of more than 100 teams on their campuses.” However, because of pushback and outrage from the athletes and advocacy groups, about two dozen of the teams have been reinstated, including programs at Brown, Dartmouth, and Clemson. Many of those programs were reinstated after the schools were threatened with Title IX lawsuits. Title IX laws mean schools have “to offer opportunities to male and female athletes that are proportionate to the gender breakdown of the general student population.”

In addition to Title IX concerns, the Stanford students are suing the school for a breach of contract. The Stanford students are represented by Jeffrey Kessler, a prominent sports attorney. He is currently in the middle of a Supreme Court case against the NCAA.

When commenting on the two Stanford cases, Kessler said:

“Stanford’s misrepresentations to these students and their families is in violation of California law and threatens to cause them lasting irreparable harm…The students are at the top of their game, and will lose the irreplaceable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fulfill their dreams to compete at the varsity level if Stanford is not stopped from eliminating these teams. Stanford has to live up to the relationship of trust it created with these athletes and we are seeking an injunction to prevent this injustice.”


Stanford athletes sue university in hopes of saving 11 sports set to be eliminated

Athletes sue Stanford in order to save 11 sports

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