MILWAUKEE, Wisc., Jan. 17. THE National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA), along with the defunct
wrestling club team at Marquette University, filed a lawsuit today in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington D.C. against the Department of Education, according to a story in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The lawsuit challenges the proportionality rule of Title IX and the way the federal law is enforced.
The remainder of this story is excerpted from the Journal Sentinel story:
Wrestling is one of the sports that has been hit hardest — even harder than swimming — by interpretations of Title IX that allow athletic directors to cut men's sports — rather than add women's sports — to achieve compliance with the federal statute. The ironic result is that the law not only fails to help women but, in the process, hurts men.
This marks the first suit brought against the federal government over Title IX by an athletic association since the National Collegiate Athletic Association sued unsuccessfully in 1976, according to the newspaper.
"The immediate objective is to remove the gender quota," said Eric Pearson, the co-chair of the Title IX committee of the NWCA.
In 1996, Title IX's enforcement laws were toughened. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in education by institutions that receive federal funding. Schools had to comply with the 1972 federal law in one of three ways: by showing a recent history of adding women's athletic teams, by proving that the interests of the student body were being met, or by proportionality.
Proportionality doesn't count the number of opportunities available to men and women, but rather the actual number of individual men and women
competing in sports.
"Many universities feel the only way to avoid a sure lawsuit is to use this proportionality interpretation," said NWCA's executive director of three years, Mike Moyer. "We would like to see decisions made truly on accommodating the interests of the students."
For example, if there are 40 spots available on the men's baseball team, there should be 40 spots available on the women's softball team, according
to the NWCA.
Instead, with the proportionality rule of Title IX, the individuals on rosters are counted. Using the same example as above, if only 20 women show up to make that 40-woman roster softball team, then in most cases only 20 men would be allowed to play on the baseball team, even if 40 men were interested.
Proportionality is supposed to reflect the gender makeup of the student body. Theoretically, if there are 51% female students on campus, then 51% of the school's athletes should be female.
Because the male participants, more than 30, skewed the overall number of male-to-female athletes at Marquette, and Marquette has to comply with Title IX to remain NCAA certified, it dropped wrestling.
That was an unsportsmanlike takedown, according to Brock Warder, of Sioux City, Iowa. He is a senior wrestler at Marquette University.
"Male athletics are being cheated simply because of Title IX," said Warder. "This is for my teammates who have had their career cut short. They had a tremendous amount of talent and were not given a chance, and it's sad."
With Marquette's program dead, there is just one Division I wrestling program left in the state of Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin, and one Division II program, the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.
The NWCA lawsuit said that such quotas have caused schools like Marquette to slash male athletic programs and were a form of reverse discrimination.
In 1976, after a failed attempt to get Congress to support legislation that would exclude athletics from Title IX, the NCAA sued what was then the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, charging that the department should not oversee intercollegiate athletics. That case was dismissed.
However, the wrestling suit marks the first time the government is being challenged over the three-pronged compliance part of Title IX, said Larry Joseph, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs.
Joseph said the case differed from previous Title IX lawsuits because it challenged the Department of Education's rules on certain procedural grounds. The plaintiffs contend – among numerous other items – that because no U.S. president or attorney general signed off on the department's Title IX rules, they should have no force or effect.
"The department needs to bring its policy up to date," Joseph said. "Most schools probably were discriminating in the 1970s and some schools probably
still are discriminating against women today. The difference is that there are now schools treating students equally and some where it's tilted the
other way, against men."