WASHINGTON -- An appeals court panel Friday upheld the
dismissal of a lawsuit claiming federal education officials
discriminated against male athletes in enforcing equal
opportunities for women.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
affirmed a ruling that the National Wrestling Coaches Association
and other athletic groups failed to show that the
anti-discrimination law known as Title IX directly caused a
reduction in men's sports.
The three-judge appeals panel said in its 2-1 decision that the
parties lacked standing to file the lawsuit, which it said should
be litigated against individual colleges that eliminated men's
sports, not the federal government.
"The direct causes of appellants' asserted injuries -- loss of
collegiate-level wrestling opportunities for male student-athletes
-- are the independent decisions of educational institutions that
choose to eliminate or reduce the size of men's wrestling teams,"
Judge Harry Edwards wrote.
In his dissent, Senior Judge Stephen Williams argued the
athletic groups had alleged a substantial enough link between the
Education Department's policies and program cuts to allow the
lawsuit to go forward.
"Incurring departmental displeasure
is not something an
educational institution would do lightly," he wrote.
Title IX prohibits gender discrimination in public and private
schools that receive federal funding, which almost all do. It
covers admissions, recruitment, course offerings, counseling,
financial aid, student health and student housing, as well as
The law's effect has been especially profound on sports. The
number of girls participating in high school athletics rose from
294,000 in 1971 to 2.8 million in 2002. The number of women in
college sports increased fivefold during the same time.
But about 400 men's college teams were eliminated during the
1990s, with wrestling taking a particularly hard hit as schools
attempted to meet the law's requirement that the ratio of male and
female athletes be similar to the overall student population.
Mike Moyer, executive director of the wrestling coaches
association, said his group would appeal to the full appeals court.