The first active Division I coach has spoken out on the ongoing transgender debate in college swimming.
Huston criticized both the NCAA policy change, which essentially passed off the responsibility of making a decision regarding transgender participation to each sport’s national governing body, and the CSCAA statement, which stood in support of Lia Thomas competing at the Women’s NCAA Championships in March.
“The NCAA once again has proven that it is not leading. It is not really even following,” Huston said. “The NCAA governance has become a bystander waiting for other organizations to make tough decisions. They hoped NIL would continue to be suppressed and now they are scrambling to make it fit their construct. Now they sit on the sidelines with Transgender issues.
“The CSCAA is right in being frustrated with NCAA Leadership or lack thereof, but wrong to suggest Lia compete at NCAAs.”
Huston, who is in his 19th season as head coach of the Rice swimming program and was named one of the CSCAA’s “100 Greatest Coaches” in 2021, says that Thomas has the right to compete this year, but not in the women’s division.
“I respect Lia Thomas, her transition, and all of that,” he said. “And I am completely OK with (her having) the opportunity to compete. because that would be a Title IX issue.
“But I think another thing within Title IX is that we have to be given time to accommodate, I guess you could say. Whether that is creating a third division, a transgender division, or whatever.”
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
“In the meantime, Lia has every right to compete. But I think, black and white right now, you compete as what you were biologically born until we get to a point where we’ve expanded opportunities, you know for instance, in transgender.
“I get Title IX, I understand it, Lia is completely within the law to do so. But there are other ways I think we can be accomodating and making opportunities for Lia without hurting a whole of others.”
Huston says that right now, organizations and governing bodies are fully accomodating Thomas and her decision without taking into account the impact it will have on everyone else.
“I just feel like we’re bowing to, in this particular instance, to one person,” he said. “And really to the detriment of thousands of other athletes potentially. And I don’t think that’s right.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of frustrated competitors, and families and fans in the sport in the end if we continue down this short-term road right now.
“Again, I’m not saying she can’t compete. But in this instance or in this forum, it’s patently unfair to all the other competitors.”