Supreme Court Rejects Michigan State Appeal in Title IX Case, School Initiating Plans To Restore Women’s Swim Team

Syndication: Lansing State Journal
Nick King/Lansing State Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Michigan State is moving forward with plans to restore the women’s swimming and diving teams following a controversy over the University’s Title IX compliance that almost reached The Supreme Court. Monday, the high court announced it would not hear an appeal from Michigan State University after a lower court issued a preliminary injunction against the school and ordered it to submit a plan to comply with Title IX ahead of an upcoming trial date.

Title IX is a federal law that bans sexual discrimination in education and is frequently raised in lawsuits against college athletics programs that accuse Universities of not providing equal opportunities to female and male athletes.

The case began in October of 2020, when Michigan State decided to eliminate the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams at the end of the 2020-2021 seasons.

Eleven of the women on the team sued the University in January 2021, requesting a court to order the school to bring back the team in order to comply with Title IX. The athletes claimed the school was not providing enough opportunities to female athletes, after the swim team’s elimination, as required by the federal law.

Although a District Judge ruled that the school’s percentage of female and male athletes was enough to satisfy Title IX, an appellate court later disagreed. A panel of three judges from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to a District Judge and said the University’s compliance should be adjudged based on the numerical gap that exists in the male and female athlete populations at the University after the women’s team is eliminated and not on the overall percentages of athletes.

The District Judge Hala Jarbou then ruled that the gap between the male and female athlete populations was large enough to support a viable women’s team. She ordered the University to submit a compliance plan in the next two months and set a trial date for January 23rd.

Michigan State appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the decision would negatively impact schools with large enrollments that change year upon year. Fifteen state attorney generals and three other universities supported the school’s brief. However, The Supreme Court refused the case Monday.

University officials now say they will restore the team and Trustees are reviewing a report from the Athletic Director. A final decision on the program’s status is expected by the conclusion of the academic year in spring 2023 but could come sooner given the upcoming trial.

“As a result of the report and subsequent dialogue,” Trustee Melanie Foster said, “the university will reach out to swim and dive advocates by the end of the semester. The Board remains committed to listening to all constituents. We have heard swim and dive students, alumni, parents and the greater Spartan community. AD Haller will work together to strategize a plan forward for the team within the next academic year.”