Court upholds elimination of men's teams at Miami of Ohio

But decision also contains good news for endangered male athletes

Washington, D.C. – A federal judge has ruled that Miami University did not violate the law when it eliminated three men’s teams in April, 1999, in order to fulfill athletic gender quotas. The quotas require proportionality – that is, equal male and female participation rates in intercollegiate athletics – and arise from an interpretation of Title IX advocated by the Clinton Education Department. But U.S. District Court Judge Sandra Beckwith also ruled that the achievement of proportionality eliminates any alleged effects of past discrimination against women, at which point quotas are no longer required and team selection “based solely upon the relative interests and abilities of students is desirable.” This aspect of the decision was seen as good news for male athletes at the nation’s universities, which have effectively been prohibited from considering any differences in male and female interests levels.

Judge Beckwith’s decision in Miami University Wrestling Club v. Miami University arises from a November, 1999 lawsuit by former members of Miami’s disbanded wrestling, tennis, and soccer teams. The athletes sued because they were prohibited from participating in varsity sports solely because they were men. They allege this discrimination violates their rights under both the Constitution and Title IX, a federal civil rights statute which states that no person shall “be excluded from participation” based on sex. Judge Beckwith’s January 24 decision, which granted summary judgment to the University, found otherwise. As a result, the athletes, represented by the Center for Individual Rights in Washington and Furnier & Thomas of Cincinnati, are considering an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

“The student athletes who brought this suit are pleased that Miami University can now consider the unmet interests of its male students who want to play varsity sports,” said Curt Levey, CIR’s Director of Legal & Public Affairs. But, he added, “the plaintiffs are also disappointed that the court did not order their teams to be reinstated. After all, the athletes were merely asking that Title IX’s prohibition against discrimination be applied to men and women alike.”