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Twelve members of the UConn women’s rowing team have filed a federal Title IX lawsuit asking the university to reinstate their team. UConn plans to cut the program at the end of the season due to budget limitations.
The rowers argue that, in eliminating the team, UConn is failing to comply with Title IX under the first prong of a three-part test. That standard states that the number of female athletes to male athletes needs to be proportional to that of female to male undergraduates.
The lawsuit says that UConn’s athletic programs, without women’s rowing, would no longer represent the student population proportionally.
Additionally, the complaint states that UConn is out of compliance based on rosters and is manipulating numbers to satisfy Title IX requirements. Coach Jen Sanford says, according to the lawsuit, that she was directed to keep more rowers on her team than needed in order to satisfy Title IX requirements.
According to the school’s annual filing with the NCAA, the team has a roster of 38 rowers but had 62 participants in the program in 2020.
UConn said last June that it aimed to reduce its athletic deficit by about $10 million a year. The operating expenses for the women’s rowing team totaled $1,345,104 in the 2020 fiscal year.
On the same day that the rowers filed the lawsuit, UConn approved a $70 million plan for a new on-campus ice hockey rink.
The rowing team protested the university’s decision on campus last week after they received no response to formal Title IX complaints filed with the university on March 29 and April 12. In the letters, the team warned university officials that a lawsuit would be filed if the program were not reinstated.
Felice Duffy, a Title IX lawyer who successfully petitioned to establish a women’s soccer team at UConn in 1979, is representing the rowers. She’s joined by James Larew and Claire Diallo, who recently represented swimmers at the University of Iowa who had their program reinstated.
The UConn rowers are also seeking an injunction that would keep the team intact until the lawsuit can be heard. At present, the team is set to be eliminated at the end of its season. That could come as early as May 16 with the Colonial Athletic Association championship or as late as May 28-30 with the conclusion of the NCAA championships.
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