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.