Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Merrimack College adding women's sports

We won't lie. We're pretty excited to see another women's hockey team at the DI level. What's also nice is that the team is being added along with five other women's sports at Merrimack College, for a total of 80 new opportunities. The additions are part of the college's resolution agreement with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, which settles a complaint about inequitable athletic opportunities for women.

Prompting this resolution agreement was OCR's finding that Merrimack was in violation of Title IX's requirement to maintain an equitable number of athletic opportunities, as measured by one of three prongs.  First, Merrimack's male students make up 52% of the population, yet receive 64% of athletic opportunities, so it could not claim compliance under the proportionality prong.  Second, prior to OCR's commencing its investigation, the last time Merrimack added a women's sport was in 1998, so it could not demonstrate a"history and continuing practice" of expanding opportunities for the underrepresented sex.  Third, Merrimack could not demonstrate that it was satisfying the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex, especially in light of women's growing interest in club and intramural sports at Merrimack.  The 80 new opportunities that will result from the new teams, some of which were added while OCR's investigation was pending, will bring Merrimack into compliance under the proportionality prong.  The resolution agreement also details Merrimack's obligation to provide equal treatment in terms of scholarship dollars, facilities, and other resources.  

Specifically Merrimack will add five women's teams to compete in Division II: swimming and diving, water polo, track and field (actually added in 2010-11, during OCR's period of review), crew, and golf. It will also add women's ice hockey, to which Merrimack will commit the resources for a team to be ready to join the premier, Division I Hockey East conference in five years.  Merrimack otherwise competes in Division II, but has a men's hockey team that competes in Hockey East, so this will bring parity within Merrimack's top tier sports.

As fans of another Hockey East team, the Title IX Bloggers say: Welcome Merrimack. Bring it!