Twenty-one days after U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill ruled competitive cheer would not count as a varsity sport, putting Quinnipiac University in the national spotlight on July 21, the University announced its plans to add women’s golf this year and women’s rugby next year to ensure compliance with Title IX.
“Adding women’s rugby and golf makes sense for the University’s athletics program,” Director of Athletics & Recreation Jack McDonald said. “Women’s rugby is a sport the University has been considering for several years now. Women’s rugby, which is an emerging NCAA sport, provides the University with additional opportunities to compete with several other outstanding institutions with excellent academic reputations. As for women’s golf, it is an established sport in the Northeast Conference.”
McDonald expects the women’s golf team to participate in the Northeast Conference Tournament this spring. The athletics department issued school-wide e-mails Sunday to alert students of information sessions for women’s golf and rugby Sept. 22, starting at 4 p.m. in the Athletics & Recreation Conference Room on the second floor of the Recreation Center.
The University will also continue its commitment to acrobatics & tumbling (formerly known as competitive cheer, then briefly stunts & tumbling), and volleyball as varsity sports, Vice President of Public Affairs Lynn Bushnell said in a statement.
Underhill issued a 95-page ruling that ordered Quinnipiac to keep its volleyball team and create a plan to come to compliance with Title IX, which forces universities to provide equal opportunities in all educational programs and activities for the underrepresented sex.
“Extra-curricular and curricular activities are included,” Dr. Donna Lopiano, an expert on Title IX, said in a phone interview.
A common misunderstanding of Title IX is that it was not just meant for equaling opportunities in athletics when it was first instituted in 1972. Title IX has always included equal opportunity requirements in athletics, said Lopiano, president and founder of Sports Management Resources.
Men’s golf and men’s outdoor track were varsity sports at Quinnipiac until March 2009, when they were cut due to budgetary reasons.
“I think most institutions were facing budgetary challenges,” Lopiano said. “The question is, if you are not in compliance with Title IX, how do you come into compliance? You can come into compliance by cutting activities for men, which wouldn’t be my choice as an athletic director.”
Lopiano suggested implementing a tiered athletic program, where a university keeps all of its sports but treats various sports differently, not discriminating based on sex or treatment.
“There are lots of schools that have added women’s teams and prong their various sports into two or three tiers and have been able to keep all the men’s opportunities.”
Ryerson Stinson, a senior and former member of the men’s golf team for two seasons, said Associate Athletic Director & Senior Women Administrator Tracey Flynn was in the locker room, along with his teammates and head coach John O’Connor, when McDonald announced the golf team was going to be cut in 2009.
“There was never a single mention of Title IX,” Stinson said. “They wrote the whole thing off as budget. Frankly, I don’t believe that anymore.”
Stinson told the Chronicle, unsolicited, he met with McDonald Thursday and said he still wouldn’t reveal how much it cost the school to fund men’s golf. However, University athletic department information, including each sport’s revenues and expenses during the 2008-09 season, is available to the public via the U.S. Department of Education.
Quinnipiac’s athletic department information for the 2009-10 season will become available to the public Oct. 15 when the Department of Education posts the data to its website.
In its final season, the men’s golf team cost the University $58,095, or $7,262 per athlete, which was the fourth lowest total of any varsity sport. Men’s tennis was the cheapest of all teams at $39,269, then women’s tennis at $49,182, and finally all the men’s track teams combined at $57,993. The Department of Education does not offer each track team’s budget separately.
“Undoubtedly, women’s rights is still an issue around the world. That would be naïve to say otherwise,” Stinson said. “In the United States, the focus has to be shifted away from athletics. If they are to revise [Title IX], it has to go back to its true values because clearly the losses here are starting to pile up on one side more than the other.”