An attorney representing several female student-athletes at the University of Cincinnati in a Title IX lawsuit against the school has complained publicly about the school’s recent decision to replace a women’s rowing program with a women’s lacrosse program.
Plaintiff’s attorney Robert Newman told the Cincinnati Enquirer that the decision was the “equivalent of them cutting men’s basketball and adding a men’s pinochle team. I don’t think the men would like that very much, and I don’t think the women are going to like having to sacrifice their sports interests. This is not only short-changing them, this is basically throwing in the towel. I think they’re just compounding their case of discrimination.”
Newman sued on behalf of his plaintiffs on November 28, 2005, claiming in U.S. District Court that UC’s treatment of the rowing team violated Title IX and the women’s rights to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, the lawsuit demanded that the university construct a boathouse; provide adequate practice space, equipment and coaching staff; and offer equal opportunity for scholarships.
Athletic Director Mike Thomas has said the decision to eliminate the women’s rowing program at the end of its 2007 spring season was not influenced by a lawsuit filed by the team against the school last year.
“This decision was made independent of the lawsuit,” he told the paper. “It’s a programmatic decision that was well thought out and done with a lot of research and with the best interests of this department and this university.”
One attorney familiar with the case, however, didn’t see it that way.
“If Cincinnati gets away with eliminating rowing after a lawsuit was filed, Title IX is either a joke or the attorneys representing the women rowers are incompetent,” the attorney said. “This is clear retaliation.”
The women’s lacrosse program will begin Division I competition in 2008.
The trial, meanwhile, is scheduled to begin in April 2008, which Newman has sought to expedite, citing the university’s recent decisions.