Volleyball not out of woods yet

While the Quinnipiac volleyball team has a 1-14 record, they are glad they’ve gotten a chance to play at all.

In early March, the University released that the women’s volleyball team, along with the golf team and men’s outdoor track, were going to be eliminated.

Fred Pachoud, father of freshman volleyball player Chelsey Pachoud, spoke of the uneasiness they felt when they first learned the volleyball team had been eliminated.

“She really wanted to come here, but was unsure about the future,” Pachoud said. “We don’t want to be caught with no options.”

According to a news release from the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut on April 16, it was shortly after the elimination was announced that the volleyball players and their coach, Robin Sparks, filed a lawsuit again Quinnipiac, “charging that the school had failed to provide female students with equal opportunity to participate in varsity intercollegiate athletics in clear violation of Title IX.”

The judge in the case, Stephan Underhill, determined that the volleyball team was correct in their claim that Quinnipiac cannot cut women’s volleyball and comply with Title IX. For now, they are playing. However, litigation is not over, and neither are the fears of elimination.

In an interview on Sept. 10, President John Lahey continued to consider the dismissal of sports in favor of academic funds.

“Volleyball, you can look at it as just a volleyball and athletic program as most people have done. For me, its five additional full-time professors that we can add or retain here at Quinnipiac, and I still believe students come to Quinnipiac to get an education,” he said. “While sports, I understand, are important, we still have 18 remaining sports. I do think making reductions in sports athletic programs is an appropriate thing and helped us last year, and in the future will protect the academic institution and have more faculty for our students.”

“We are abiding by the court’s preliminary injunction ruling regarding the Title IX matter,” said Lynn Bushnell, vice president for public affairs. “It is an issue we take very seriously and, as this case proceeds, it is our intention to demonstrate that Quinnipiac is in full compliance with Title IX requirements. Because the matter remains in litigation, we will decline further comment.”

Title IX is a law that was passed in 1972 that is instituted by administered by the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education. The law states that any education program that receives federal funding must accommodate the interests and abilities of both sexes. Unequal treatment would be considered failure to provide necessary funds for teams for one sex over the other.

The lawsuit was filed by the team because according to the ACLU press release, Quinnipiac’s student body percentage of female students is not provided with an equal opportunity to participate in athletics.

To combat this, Quinnipiac has added a female competitive cheering squad.

In a meeting with The Chronicle on Thursday, Sept. 10, President John Lahey said, “We created a new women’s intercollegiate competitive cheer program. And the numbers there we suggested were going to be in the range of 30. I’m told that we exceeded that actually. So when you take the numbers, you subtract the men that were eliminated and add the 30 women in competitive cheer and you eliminate volleyball, our numbers will be in excess of the requirements for Title IX.”

“So the question wasn’t that we were out of compliance, last year we were in compliance,” Lahey said. “We presented numbers last year that we believe are accurately reflected today but the judge just wanted to wait because if we did not achieve what we said, we would have to reinstate volleyball after the fact and I think that was basically his reasoning in that decision. So we’re still comfortable with the decision.”

Still, Sparks remains optimistic.

“The team is very happy to be playing this season and particularly excited about winning our home opener and first conference match of the year in front of so many supporters yesterday,” Sparks said. “Having such a big crowd at the match was fun for all of us. Our goals this year are to once again have the best GPA of all QU athletic teams like we have the past two years; to repeat as the volleyball team with the top GPA in the NEC as we did this past season; to make the Conference tournament; and to win that tournament and go to the NCAA tourney.”

Sophomore Katie Notarianni watched the team play on Sept. 27 and noticed something different about the team.

“It seems like they are trying to prove to the University that they should be here for a reason,” she said. “The difference between their game last year and this year is incredible. They played with so much spirit and skill and it really was so impressive to watch.

“People around the school think that they don’t have skill because they might not have the best record, but if anyone went and actually took the time out of their day to see them, they would realize it’s not as easy as it seems. The volleyball team is really trying to show the school what they’re made of.”

“She really likes to play volleyball,” Pachoud said about his daughter. “She really likes the campus, school and education, which of course is first priority. It’d be a tough decision for her if something were to happen. This could be a really good program. It has to have a commitment from the university, the president and the administration, and if it did I think it could be a great program.”