Quinnipiac files to lift injunction in Title IX case

John Healy

The Quinnipiac women’s volleyball team doesn’t have a coach. But even if the team finds a replacement, the program’s status is in question for next year.

A hearing is scheduled for June 11 to determine whether or not an injunction from the 2010 lawsuit, which ruled that Quinnipiac was not in compliance with Title IX and for the reinstatement of the women’s volleyball program, would be lifted.

The university filed to lift the injunction on Dec. 22, 2011 and must wait at least 120 days for the court to make a decision.

If the injunction is lifted it would confirm that the university is in compliance with the gender participation aspect of the law. But there will still be other Title IX requirements the university must adhere to after the June 11 hearing, said Sandra Staub, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut.

“We see no meaningful improvement in the allotment of athletic opportunities for women at Quinnipiac and we will oppose the motion on behalf of the university’s women athletes,” Staub said. “In addition, we intend to prove our claims that the university fails to satisfy Title IX requirements that it provide scholarships and other benefits, including facilities, coaching and other budgeted items, equitably among men and women athletes. These claims will be scheduled for a trial in November 2012.”

Title IX, a federal law passed by Congress in 1972, states, “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.”

The women’s volleyball team filed the lawsuit in 2009 after the team was told it was being cut for budget reasons, along with men’s golf and men’s outdoor track. They argued that without the volleyball team the university was not in compliance with Title IX and that they were manipulating roster sizes to appear that they were in compliance.

In July 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Stefan R. Underhill ordered the university to implement a plan to comply with Title IX, which included the continuation of the women’s volleyball team through the 2010-11 season.

Another part of the lawsuit was that Quinnipiac added a competitive cheer (now acrobatics and tumbling) program after the volleyball team was cut. Underhill determined that the sport was too underdeveloped to qualify as a varsity sport and its members could not be counted as athletic participants under the Title IX statute.

Former women’s volleyball head coach Robin Lamott Sparks, who was fired by the university two weeks ago, was one of the plaintiffs in the case. The university said that her termination is not related to the Title IX lawsuit.

Lynn Bushnell, vice president for public affairs, said that the university would not comment on any pending legal matters.