Judge Rules Michigan State Is Not Title IX Compliant; Swim Team Not Reinstated

The district court judge for the women’s swim and dive team lawsuit against Michigan State University ruled that the school is not Title IX compliant on Tuesday.

However, the university has not been ordered to reinstate the team, but instead was given 60 days to submit a plan to rectify the violation.

The ruling followed a preliminary injunction that was requested by a group of MSU swimmers on July 21. At a district court hearing, lawyers for the school showed data displaying that there had been a female participation gap of 40 during the 2020-21 school year, the last season before the women’s swim & dive program was cut, and that the women’s swim team had more members than the men’s that season.

MSU initially wanted to use percentages as the metric in which to determine whether the school was providing the equitable participation opportunities provided by law, but a three-panel judge of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled by a 2-1 margin that the district court decision must be based on the numerical gap n the men’s and women’s athlete populations that was caused by the women’s team’s elimination, and how that number compares to the size of a “viable” team.

“It makes little sense to require MSU to use its finite resources to temporarily reinstate the women’s swimming and diving team where, even if Plaintiffs succeed on their claims, MSU could chart a different course in a few months’ time,” the ruling stated, per Detroit News.

“Those resources are better spent on what is more likely to be a sustainable course of compliance over the long term.”

On July 29, the university filed a request asking the Supreme Court to hear the case. “Battle For Spartan Swim and Dive”, a group of students, alumni and supporters with the objective of restoring the program, responded by claiming that “the only thing that has proven unworkable is the university’s willingness to reverse a bad decision based on bad data.”

The women’s swim and dive team attorney, Lori Bullock, said that the lawsuit will remain ongoing until the final trial in January.

“The ultimate goal of the lawsuit has always been in Title IX compliance, which may look like a swim and dive team being reinstated and that’s what we were hoping MSU would do,” Bullock said, according to State News.

“That’s still absolutely an option that MSU has, to submit a compliance plan that reinstates the swim and dive team.”

MSU will now have 60 days to submit a plan proving they can bring the program into Title IX compliance, though it’s not required that the plan involves restoring the women’s swim & dive team.

“We’re very encouraged by the judge granting of the preliminary injunction and the recognition that MSU was out of compliance with Title IX and that eliminating the women’s team only exacerbated that problem,” Bullock said.

Plaintiff Sophia Balow, a distance freestyle specialist who was a sophomore with the Spartans in the 2020-21 season, believes the easiest way for the school to become Title IX compliant is to simply reinstate the program.

“It’s easier than creating a different women’s team, I mean the pool’s there, the swimmers are there, the coach is there,” Balow said. “It makes the most sense to just put the swim team back.

“Hopefully (MSU) can make the right decision and we can stop spending so much time and money on fighting each other on this and they can just put the women’s team back in the pool.”

The Spartans cut their swimming and diving programs in October of 2020, but 11 swimmers sued in January of 2021 seeking to revive the program in light of an inspiring legal victory at Iowa.

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Concerned for MSU
1 year ago

MSU do the right thing, bring swimming back. You spend a million dollars on shoulder pads and jerseys for the football team a year. That would be more than enough to bring back the swimming team.

Reply to  Concerned for MSU
1 year ago


Last edited 1 year ago by BostonLouie
Happy Slappy
1 year ago

Ahhhhh, welcome to litigation!!!

1 year ago

How is reinstating 11 women’s scholarships going to address the gap of 40 and bring them into compliance?

The title IX lunacy of scholarship equivalency needs to change and exclude the 85 football scholarships. Football requires huge numbers, isn’t played by women, and most importantly, PAYS FOR EVERYTHING ELSE. Hold those scholarships out and if you want to equalize scholarships for all remaining sports, fine. The current approach results in continued cuts to Men’s Olympic programs.

Reply to  Wethorn
1 year ago

Football actually costs the majority of Athletics Departments more money than it brings it. This idea that funds the other sports is just wrong (at least as it pertains to most schools).

Reply to  CraigH
1 year ago

In most schools football is a net positive, even if it’s not enough to make the entire athletic department positive. Something like 10-15 AD operate in the black.

But for those who want to hate on football, without it, every Olympic sport becomes a club team in college.

Reply to  Wethorn
1 year ago

Not really. It’s the men’s basketball tournament that’s helping keep the olympic sports alive

Reply to  CraigH
1 year ago

In a roundabout way, it might still. I don’t know that students are going to vote to approve athletics subsidies because they want to prop up the *checks notes* swim team.

Also, Michigan State is not one of those programs. Michigan State football makes a huge profit (outside of the pandemic). As do the football programs of most of the top swimming programs, and most of the Big Ten programs. I think the Rutgers program is the big exception.

Some losses from football are considered acceptable by institutions, because we all sit around and pretend like college athletics provides value to the school and the student body at large: things like marketing and providing a pathway for social mobility (especially… Read more »

Reply to  CraigH
1 year ago

Your first sentence is largely incorrect.

Unknown Swammer
Reply to  CraigH
1 year ago

Football doesn’t “have” to cost such huge sums of money. If swimming needed to be added back, football at MSU could easily survive and take relatively marginal hits to their budget.

Reply to  Unknown Swammer
1 year ago

When the football coach is the highest paid public employee in many states, it does have to cost huge sums of money.

Reply to  Wethorn
1 year ago

I see it as a participation gap. Not a scholarship gap. Can easily have a team of 40 in swim & dive. And these are typically high performed students.

Reply to  Meeeee
1 year ago

Wasn’t clear if the article was talking about 40 scholarships or participants. But the original TItle IX requirements were focused in n scholarships…that’s why most men’s sports had to reduce scholarships by 10%, which left mens swimming with 9.9 scholarships.

If compliance originally define equality based on the number of scholarships, I’m not sure why the number of participants would matter.

1 year ago

Such a dumb law

1 year ago

I wish the swimmers well, but universities just don’t SEE swimming in any real sense. Thus, cutting programs is not even a tweak of conscience for them. Best of luck in getting things reinstated; that would be simple, prudent, and effective, but apparatchiks in universities don’t view life that way.

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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