East Carolina Reinstates Women’s Swim & Dive, Tennis To Avoid Title IX Lawsuit

East Carolina University has reinstated women’s swimming & diving and women’s tennis effective immediately, the school announced  Thursday.

Back in May, ECU had announced it was cutting a total of four intercollegiate programs, including both the men’s and women’s swimming & diving teams, in an effort to save $4.9 million long-term.

Female athletes from both the swimming & diving and tennis teams then retained a lawyer in November for a potential Title IX lawsuit, with attorney Arthur Bryant claiming that the cuts were in “flagrant violation of Title IX” based on the publicly available data.

Bryant sent a letter to ECU Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson threatening a lawsuit, pointing out the disproportionate representation of scholarship opportunities at the school.

“Based on these facts, unless ECU agrees to reinstate the women’s teams or has some plans for compliance with Title IX we do not yet know, we will seek a preliminary injunction immediately preserving the teams,” the letter says.

Now having brought back both women’s teams in order to avoid the potential lawsuit, the school says the athletics department will begin the process of hiring head coaches in order to begin the recruitment of student-athletes.

With women’s swimming & diving and tennis back, ECU will sponsor 18 varsity programs total, 11 of them being women’s teams.

“In an ongoing commitment to NCAA best practices and compliance with federal and state law including Title IX, the university will begin developing a Gender Equity Plan over the next year with input from student-athletes on each team,” the school said in its release. “The plan will provide ECU with a blueprint for assessing, monitoring and enhancing gender equity in intercollegiate athletics.”

East Carolina Director of Athletics Jon Gilbert added that the school was aware of the potential Title IX implications of cutting the programs, and that the department worked with a consultant on how to deal with the need for financial relief while remaining compliant.

“We are looking forward to having women’s swimming and diving along with women’s tennis return as a part of our sport offerings,” Gilbert said. “When we went through the process of eliminating four programs in May, we understood we needed to reconstitute the athletic department in terms of sports programs and to do so while facing significant budget restraints due to COVID and its uncertainties.

“We worked directly with a Title IX consultant on how best to address our compliance with Title IX while also addressing our financial issues. Title IX is an ongoing commitment and it’s a priority for our university and athletics department.”

Mitchelson added that while the pandemic has caused “unprecedented financial disruption” at the school, ECU is fully committed to offering meaningful opportunities to female athletes and that gender equity “is a priority” to the institution.

In October, SwimSwam reported on the aftermath of the program cuts from an athlete’s perspective — 29 swimming & diving transfers, including both returning and incoming swimmers from the men’s and women’s teams.

Title IX accusations have been a common theme in recent months following the wave of program cuts that came in 2020. The College of William & Mary reinstated its women’s teams due to violations, while last month, a judge granted an injunction preventing the University of Iowa from dropping its women’s swimming & diving team. Dartmouth College is currently in the process of seeking reinstatement.

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Creed Ko
1 year ago

Here you go… Total saving in cutting the men’s teams will be $1.2M… but they spent $190K on legal fees in the Title 9 settlement that brought the women’s teams back… so now the savings is only $1M… probably paid the consulting firm another $200K, so they wasted $400K for no reason. Great job…

https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/more-sports/ecu-reinstates-womens-sports-teams-after-threat-of-gender-discrimination-lawsuit/ar-BB1czqoD?ocid=mailsignout&li=BBnb7Kz

Other lowlights from the article:

“ECU has reached out to both former coaches about leading the programs again, but (A.D.) Gilbert said he has some “fence-mending” to do with them.”

and

“Currently, four women’s tennis players and one student-athlete on the women’s swimming and diving team are still on scholarship and on campus. Three walk-ons… Read more »

Swimfan
Reply to  Creed Ko
1 year ago

The whole way Title IX works is nuts. Um yeah lets just support BIG FOOTBALL and forget about Olympic sports. I really hate the way they use Title IX. Support swimming for swimmings sake and to give ALL athletes opportunities to do their sport in college.

MickeyMouse
1 year ago

I could be wrong, but making sure they’re still Title IX compliant before cutting sports and uprooting athletes/coaches lives seems like such an easy check. How the heck does stuff like this keep happening?

swimgeek
Reply to  MickeyMouse
1 year ago

In their defense: “We worked directly with a Title IX consultant on how best to address our compliance with Title IX while also addressing our financial issues. Title IX is an ongoing commitment and it’s a priority for our university and athletics department.” — doesn’t sound like a great consultant.

Swimfan
Reply to  MickeyMouse
1 year ago

And how much money did they waste on that consultant. It’s called math and you just add it up and make sure it’s balanced.

Creed Ko
Reply to  Swimfan
1 year ago

Right. ECU is so cash strapped, they pay a consulting firm to make sure they avoid any Title 9 lawsuits. But now, any savings they may have realized in cutting sports has been spent on the consulting firm. Someone should file a FOI to find out how much money ECU wasted on that consulting firm and investigate the AD for fiscal irresponsibility.

daman
Reply to  Creed Ko
1 year ago

They probably still saved money this year overall having the team out for a year. 320k budget and probably similar of the same amount on scholarships since many transferred. Women’s Tennis and swimming combined for 1.2 million in savings and tennis is probably only 1/4-1/3 of that.

Lawyer made out like a bandit though, $189,339.50. What in the world…

Coach
Reply to  MickeyMouse
1 year ago

It’s baffling how this isn’t considered miserably failing at your job and cause for dismissal. At least William & Mary got that part right, when they showed their AD the door.

swimgeek
1 year ago

Great news, but the team is already decimated by transfers. 🙁

azswummer
1 year ago

Reinstatement is awesome but think of the process that the kids who wanted to keep swimming had to go through in terms of transferring. Do you stay at your new home or go back? These administrators who cut programs just don’t care. It’s almost as if they cut and deal with the consequences later (meaning lawsuits). Meanwhile kids and families are greatly impacted. Choosing the “right” school is a lengthy process.

Admin
Reply to  azswummer
1 year ago

What we’ve seen at other schools is that most stick with the new school they’ve committed to.

deepsouth
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

Braden, have you heard if Jabs is returning as coach?

Admin
Reply to  deepsouth
1 year ago

I have not.

daman
Reply to  deepsouth
1 year ago

He’ll have to apply it looks like from what I have read. Probably best for the program to find someone new though.

Yabo
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 year ago

Makes sense, don’t even have to imagine the feeling of betrayal from the AD this whole situation has elicited

The Truth
Reply to  azswummer
1 year ago

The AD was a swim supporter, so please do not assume that b/c he had to make a difficult decision (and it was difficult for him to make) that he does not care about the sport.
His wife swam at Bama. He house sat for Coach Gambril. And both his kids swam club.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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