Supreme Court Rejects Michigan State’s Appeal in Title IX Dispute Over Swim Team

by Riley Overend 7

December 13th, 2022 Big Ten, College

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Michigan State on Monday in the ongoing legal battle over whether the Spartans violated Title IX when they cut their swim programs at the end of the 2020-21 season.

At issue would have been how strictly to interpret Title IX’s civil rights protections for gender equality in college sports.

A judge initially said that the gap in participation rates between genders created by cutting the swim teams was too small to violate Title IX, noting that no court had ever found a gap of less than 2% against the law. However, upon hearing written and oral arguments from the Justice Department, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to the district judge for reassessment of the participation gap based on numerical terms as opposed to percentages.

In its plea to the Supreme Court in July, Michigan State called the 6th Circuit’s approach “unworkable.” Fifteen Republican state attorneys supported Michigan State’s appeal, arguing that the 6th Circuit was incorrectly mandating “exact, per-capita, sex-based parity between the student population and athletic opportunities.” One sports law expert said that the Supreme Court choosing to hear the Michigan State case would “send Title IX advocates into a panic.”

The Supreme Court’s rejection of Michigan State’s appeal means the university must submit a court-ordered compliance plan within the next two weeks.

“While disappointed, we accept the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision,” Michigan State spokesman Dan Olsen said. “Over the coming days and weeks, MSU will focus on the trial court proceedings, including the submission of a compliance plan.”

The lawsuit filed last January by 11 members of the women’s team is all set for trial next month.

“We believe the facts clearly show that Michigan State violated Title IX by eliminating its women’s swimming and diving team,” Lori Bullock, lead attorney for the swimmers, told USAToday via text. “We look forward to holding the school accountable. We are pleased but not surprised that MSU’s effort to get the Supreme Court to change the law has failed.”

The Battle for Spartan Swim and Dive advocacy group released a statement Monday saying that Michigan State’s latest setback is another sign that the university should settle this case.

“Proceeding to trial will expose Michigan State to further scrutiny of its participation numbers and the inequity of resources for its female student-athletes,” Battle for Spartan Swim and Dive said. “With little chance of success and more potentially embarrassing revelations, we ask that the university end this legal pursuit and come within compliance by reinstating both MSU Swimming and Diving teams. This also ends more egregious legal fees, which currently total more than $700,000 according to FOIA reports, with experts estimating the final total exceeding $4 million after paying out plaintiff fees.

“Reinstating the MSU Swimming and Diving teams achieves Title IX compliance without any further cuts to Spartan athletic programs, activates more than $10 million in pledges to support swim and dive, and brings back a legacy program for its 100th season,” the group added. “The Battle team calls on MSU leadership to do the right thing and settle this lawsuit.”

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Old Swim Coach
5 months ago

“While disappointed, we accept the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision,” Michigan State spokesman Dan Olsen said. “Over the coming days and weeks, MSU will focus on the trial court proceedings, including the submission of a compliance plan.”

“Disappointed” that they HAVE to have a women’s swimming & diving team? MSU leadership disgusts me. What kind of support for the program will exist once they are reinstated? Sounds like a great place to go to school and be a student-athlete.

5 months ago

Hopefully, this will start the return of
Michigan State Swimming and Diving

Old Swim Coach
Reply to  Lamboswam
5 months ago


Reply to  Lamboswam
5 months ago

It’s amazing that Kutztown State has the funds to reinstate swimming but Michigan St does not? A Power 5 school can’t compete with Kutztown state?

UNC fan
5 months ago

Kutztown brought back swimming how come Michigan State can’t?

Reply to  UNC fan
5 months ago

Ah, the answer is football. Kutztown is a Division II school and the NCAA allows that Division to have a maximum of 36 full scholarships for football. Whereas, Divison I FBS, where MSU is, are allowed 85, which have to be, basically, offset with the same funding for women’s sports. Offsetting that kind of number is a monumental problem and is the main reason there are so many more Division I women’s swimming and diving programs than there are for men.
And then there is the other reason; many ADs, like Haller at MSU and Barta at Iowa, are football dunderheads that don’t really want non-revenue sports and only care about football. These ADs and others like them are… Read more »

Reply to  SwimCoachDad
5 months ago

No excuses for Michigan State. They have all the resources and then some. The amount they spend on jerseys and shoulder pads alone, could easily pay for the swimming program to be successful.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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