Trial Lawyers for Public Justice Claims Sports Law Victory

Nov 18, 2005

When Florida A&M University (FAMU) in Tallahassee, Florida announced that it was cutting multiple sports programs earlier this year to comply with a budget shortfall, the legal advocacy group the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice took notice, assailing the embattled university for violating Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
The pressure apparently worked, according the TLPJ, after the school announced last month that it would reinstate its women’s swimming and diving team, in order “to avoid a Title IX lawsuit by TLPJ.” The School also reinstated Men’s Golf, Men’s Tennis, and Men’s Swimming and Diving
To achieve its objective, the TLPJ said it sent the university a demand letter on behalf of the women’s team, “pointing out that the university was in serious violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination by educational institutions receiving federal funds. In fact, women students comprise 58 percent of the undergraduate student body at FAMU, but are offered less than 29 percent of the opportunities to participate in athletics.
“Particularly unfair to women athletes was the school’s citing of budgetary concerns as the reason for cutting the women’s teams, while, in fact, a huge disproportion was evident in the amount of funding available for women’s sports versus men’s sports. FAMU’s athletic budget reached more than $9.2 million this year. The university’s football budget — $547,549 — is larger than the cost of all other FAMU sports combined, excluding basketball. FAMU’s decision to cut women’s swimming and diving supplemented serious insult with injury. The action was particularly distressing to the school’s swimming and diving team members, since FAMU is one of only four historically black colleges and universities to sponsor a women’s swim team.”
FAMU Interim President Castell Vaughn Bryant attributed the move to financial developments, not legal pressure. “With the identification of a university budget surplus,” Dr. Bryant said, “the decision has been made to restore the four sports to competition this academic year.”
Representing TLPJ’s legal team were Shanon Lehman of Philadelphia’s Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin (HASP), Sharon F. McKee and William T. Hangley of HASP, Leslie A. Brueckner of TLPJ, and Jerry Traynham of Tallahassee’s Patterson & Traynham.


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