Thursday, August 12, 2010

Qunnipiac Adds Rugby and Golf

The AP is reporting that Quinnipiac University filed its court-mandated Title IX compliance plan in federal court, in which it announced its decision to keep women's volleyball through 2011-12, s well as to add golf and rugby in order to balance women's athletic opportunities with men's. Quinnipiac will also retain its competitive cheer team -- renamed "stunts and tumbling" -- even though these opportunities do not (yet) count towards the university's Title IX compliance under the district court's recent ruling.

Qunnipiac's choice to add rugby is an interesting one. The NCAA designated rugby an "emerging sport" in 2002, as part of its initiative to support colleges' efforts to add athletic opportunities for women. The emerging sport designation means that sport will obtain national championship if 40 schools (across all three divisions) add the sport by 2012. In the meanwhile, opportunities added in that sport count toward NCAA requirements, as well as enjoy the presumption of counting as a varsity opportunity for Title IX purposes. Emerging sport status has successfully launched women's championships in sports like ice hockey and rowing, but rugby may not be following the same path. Though there is a widespread interest in rugby among female students, there is less interest from within the sport, which has a strong tradition of independence, to submit to institutional control. As a result, rugby has made slow progress towards the "4o by 2012" benchmark. By my count, Quinnipiac is only the sixth school overall, and the second in Division I, to add rugby as a varsity sport. If rugby loses its emerging sport status in 2012, Quinnipiac could potentially have two women's teams (stunts & tumbling and rugby) that do not count for Title IX purposes. We can only guess what effect this would have on the university's overall compliance strategy.