The U.S. Supreme Court last week let stand an appellate-court decision throwing out a lawsuit that blamed the Department of Education’s rules against sex discrimination for cuts to men’s college-sports teams that allegedly were unfair to male athletes.
A federal appeals court in Washington last year ruled against a coalition led by the National Wrestling Coaches Association that had challenged some of the Education Department’s rules for enforcing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
In a 2-1 ruling in May 2004, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the disputed rules were not directly to blame for cuts to men’s teams in various sports, chiefly wrestling, at colleges since the 1980s.
Instead, the coaches’ real beef should be with those institutions, which the appeals court said have flexibility in how to comply with the regulations. (“Wrestling Coaches Lose Appeal Over Ed. Dept.’s Title IX Rules,” May 26, 2004.)
On June 6, the Supreme Court declined without comment to take up the plaintiffs’ appeal in National Wrestling Coaches Association v. Department of Education (Case No. 04-922).
“They don’t reverse every case that’s decided in error,” said Lawrence J. Joseph, a Washington lawyer representing the plaintiffs.
But the National Women’s Law Center, which backed the federal government’s position, said it hoped the high court’s action meant that the “last word on this case has been spoken.”
“It’s high time the wrestlers stopped using this important law as a scapegoat for their own problems,” said Marcia D. Greenberger, the co-president of the Washington-based center.
But Mr. Joseph said the plaintiffs were not giving up. He said they have another case pending against the Education Department over the agency’s rejection of a formal request to revise the Title IX rules.
In addition to the original coaches and alumni groups, that second case includes some new plaintiffs, including a high school wrestling club from Pennsylvania.
The association’s first suit challenged Education Department’s 1979 and 1996 guidance on Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in education programs receiving federal funds.
The rules allow colleges to prove compliance by providing athletic opportunities for men and women in numbers proportionate to their enrollments, among other steps. Institutions can eliminate teams or limit their rosters to achieve such balance under the rules.