WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - Just under a month ago, William & Mary made the announcement that it would cut seven of the school's 23 varsity sports.
Now, the athletes who play for the cut women's teams are fighting back and planning to file a lawsuit. The women are being represented by Arthur Bryant of Bailey Glasser, LLP, who sent a letter to the school yesterday to alert it of their intent to sue if the women's sports teams aren't reinstated.
(READ FULL LETTER HERE: https://ewscripps.brightspotcdn.com/7f/66/9f34a0ec4905b88577d30ec65503/letter-to-president-rowe.pdf)
"From the perspective of the law and Title IX, this is about sex discrimination, plain and simple," Bryant said.
The teams being represented include women's gymnastics, swimming and volleyball. In their letter, it states that the school is violating Title IX because of the gap between the women’s undergraduate enrollment rate and their intercollegiate athletic participation rate.
"William & Mary has 58%, almost, undergraduate females, but it's restructuring its program in athletics so only 50% will have opportunities to play sports," Bryant said. "That's against the law, it's very clear it's against the law, and William & Mary needs to fix this and comply with Title IX."
In the letter Bryant sent to the school it breaks down the enrollment rate as it relates to athletics, stating:
"According to the most recent publicly available Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act data that William & Mary submitted and verified to the U.S. Department of Education, in the 2018-2019 academic year, William & Mary had an undergraduate population of 3,635 women and 2,662 men. So undergraduate enrollment was 57.7% women. The school’s intercollegiate athletic teams that academic year had 344 men and 296 women, or 46.3% women—creating a 11.4% gap between the women’s undergraduate enrollment rate and their intercollegiate athletic participation rate.
"Given the number of men on the varsity teams, this means that William & Mary would have needed to add 174 women to its athletic program to be providing equitable participation opportunities for women. With the elimination of the teams that were announced on September 3, 2020, the school’s athletic participation numbers drop to approximately 220 men and 235 women, which is still only 51.6% women. Therefore, even with the announced team eliminations, William & Mary would still need to add approximately 65 women to reach gender equity under Title IX. This is approximately the number of women on the teams the school is eliminating."
This isn't Bryant's first interaction with William & Mary regarding Title IX. In 1991, he was retained by members of the women’s basketball team who were looking for reinstatement, and after Bryant spoke with the school and its lawyers, the team was reinstated.
"I was stunned to discover that William & Mary had done this again," Bryant said. "The law is crystal clear, you cannot eliminate and active, successful women's team, unless after you eliminate it, the opportunities to play sports for women and men are substantially proportionate to their undergraduate enrollment rates."