Saturday, October 30, 2010

University of Portland Cuts Golf, Violates Title IX?

University of Portland has announced plans to drop men's and women's golf, and to add women's crew. The article does not provide a reason for the cuts, other than to note that university officials claim the move was "not to cut costs." I'm not at all sure what that means.

While adding women's crew would bring the university closer to compliance under prong 1, its decision to cut women's golf still may violate Title IX. Portland's EADA report says that currently, there are 171 varsity athletic opportunities for female students, or 47% of the 363 opportunities overall. Yet women account for 63% of the student body. Even if we give Portland credit now for the 62 opportunities it plans to add in crew (and OCR does not count hypothetical future opportunities, as we recently noted), the total number of athletic opportunities for women would be 226, or 55% of what will be 410 total athletic opportunities -- still approximately 86 opportunities short of reaching 63%.

Failing to comply with the proportionality prong, Portland must be able to demonstrate compliance with either prong 2 (history and continuous expansion of opportunities for the underrepresented sex) or prong 3 (no unmet interest and abilities), which is difficult to impossible when you cut a women's team. Moreover, as our recent post also suggests, OCR does not look favorably on claims that a university is continuously expanding opportunities for women when it cuts an existing team and replaces it with one that is chosen because it's a good fit for the institution, rather than responsive to existing unmet interest. Thus, a decision to cut on sport and replace it with another that is chosen simply because its large roster offers better chance of Title IX compliance will probably not fly as a prong two defense.

If the female golfers were to challenge this decision, I think they would have a very strong case.