Saturday, December 05, 2015

Duluth Coaches and Students File Title IX Complaint

A group of four former student athletes, one current student athlete, and three former coaches have filed a complaint with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights challenging widespread sex discrimination within the athletic department at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. The former coaches -- Shannon Miller, Jen Banford, and Annette Wiles -- are also plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the university challenging sex- and sexual orientation- discrimination that resulted in the termination or forced resignation of their jobs.  But the OCR complaint alleges even more widespread sex discrimination that affects students and coaches alike.

Allegations in the complaint include the following:
  • women's ice hockey team has a smaller operating budget (by over $270K) than its male counterpart
  • women's softball team was forced to have tryouts in order to pad the number of female athletes reported for gender equity purposes, then the department made the coach cut those extra players for budgetary reasons 
  • some female athletes were fraudulently reported as participants in multiple sports
  • men's basketball team is allowed to carry redshirt players, while the women's team is not
  • the department has terminated female coaches, depriving female athletes the opportunity to receive coaching of high quality
  • the department provides men's teams coach with resources like vehicles, a restaurant expense account, and support staff, that are not provided to the women's coaches on equal terms. 
  • the men's basketball team has a locker room five times larger and of superior quality than the locker room for women's team
  • the men's hockey team is provided with resources like snacks, meals, travel funds to tournaments that were not provided in equal measure to the women's team. 
  • the women's basketball team had fewer games and travel opportunities than the men's team; the women's team had to fundraise for travel and the men were not
  • men's teams had bigger budgets for recruiting, more equipment and uniforms, and medical equipment denied to women's teams
  • female athletes have fewer opportunities for scholarships, such as funding to enroll in special May term, J-term, and summer semesters that male athletes receive
  • the department does less promotion for female teams than its male counterparts, among other examples, it tweeted about men's hockey 309 times compared to 69 tweets about women's hockey
OCR will now consider whether to open an investigation (it likely will).  If the allegations are validated, it is very hard to imagine how they could not constitute violations of Title IX. While it is not necessarily a violation to have a disparity in treatment between men's and women's teams in the same sport, it is a violation when the athletic department's pattern is to select the women's team for inferior treatment all or most of the time.