• Villanova Sports Law Blog

Title IX: Should Athletes Be Blaming It or Thanking It?

By Monica Matias:


On September 27, 2018, a federal judge of the Eastern District of Michigan ordered an injunction against Eastern Michigan University (EMU) in response to a lawsuit brought by two of the university’s student athletes.[1] The lawsuit was filed following the university’s decision to eliminate four teams, including women’s tennis, women’s softball, and two men’s teams. Although EMU claims the cuts were necessary in order to reduce costs and provide a better experience for student athletes, the decision garnered quite the negative response from the community.


In June 2018, a women’s tennis player and a women’s softball player commenced the lawsuit, in which they alleged that the university violated Title IX by discriminating against female athletes. Compliance with Title IX requires that schools provide equal opportunities for male and female athletes that are proportional to the school’s student body.[2] What many don’t know is that schools don’t automatically lose their federal funding for failing to comply with this standard as long as they show that they are making progress towards that goal, no matter how long that progress is actually taking.[3]


Eastern Michigan claims to be dedicated to providing equal opportunities for everyone, and they argue that the opportunities for women have been significantly increasing through the years.[4] Despite this, the judge in charge of reviewing the case stated that his decision to grant an injunction in favor of the two athletes was based on the university’s data that shows a great disparity in the number of women attending the school and those that actually participate in athletics.[5] He also stated that the trend had continued for over a decade without ever being addressed.[6] The university was ordered to reinstate the women’s programs that were cut, but now many are left wondering if there will be a future for the men’s teams that were eliminated as well.


Since its creation, Title IX has been the source of much debate in the athletic community. While many support it because of the opportunities it provides to women, others find that it ends up costing male athletes opportunities. While it is true that, at times, male sports are cut in an effort to be compliant with Title IX, it is unfair to put the blame for that solely on Title IX. Another important reason for the reduction of men’s teams is that so much of the money that should be allocated to male sports is being divided mainly between two sports: football and men’s basketball.[7]


Schools tend to justify this decision by saying that those sports bring in the revenue that is used to sustain the rest of the teams. While it is true that these two sports are likely to bring in the most revenue overall, many teams competing in those two sports don’t even make enough to cover their own expenses, let alone enough to sustain other teams.[8] Before we start blaming Title IX for the unfairness caused to some men’s athletic teams, it’s crucial to remember that Title IX is a source of protection for female athletes, like the ones at EMU, and is not the cause of problems that arise when schools choose to favor specific sports over others.



[1] Tony Paul, Judge Rules for Female Athletes in Lawsuit Against Eastern Michigan, The Detroit News (Sept. 27, 2018),https://www.detroitnews.com/story/sports/college/2018/09/27/judge-rules-female-athletes-lawsuit-against-eastern-michigan/1448062002/

[2] David Berri, Did Growth of Women’s College Sports Cost Men? Data Says No, Forbes (Jan. 16, 2018), https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidberri/2018/01/16/did-the-growth-in-womens-college-sports-cost-men-some-might-say-yes-but-the-data-doesnt-agree/#278f2373297a

[3] Id.

[4] Tony Paul, Judge Rules for Female Athletes in Lawsuit Against Eastern Michigan, The Detroit News (Sept. 27, 2018), https://www.detroitnews.com/story/sports/college/2018/09/27/judge-rules-female-athletes-lawsuit-against-eastern-michigan/1448062002/

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Title IX and Men’s Sports: A False Conflict, National Women’s Law Center ( Aug. 1, 2015), https://nwlc-ciw49tixgw5lbab.stackpathdns.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/title_ix_and_mens_sports_8.11.15.pdf

[8] Id.