Supreme Court Hands Wrestlers Loss on Title IX

Justices decline to hear appeal of lawsuit challenging Education Department's policy on equity in sports.
June 7, 2005

Advocates for women's sports continue to win in the courts, even as they lose ground in the political and policy arena.

Two months after the U.S. Education Department issued new guidelines that are widely seen as undercutting Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court turned away without comment a last-ditch effort by the National Wrestling Coaches Association to challenge the Education Department's enforcement of the federal law barring sex discrimination at institutions that receive federal aid.

The coaches' lawsuit has lost at every stage of the legal process. Last October, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in a decision that followed up on a May 2004 ruling, rejected the association's argument that the department's policies essentially require force colleges to disobey Title IX itself by dropping men's teams, thereby denying male athletes opportunities to participate in sports. A lower federal court had ruled against the wrestling coaches, too.

The U.S. Justice Department had urged the court to reject the coaches' appeal. 

In a news release, the National Women's Law Center, which had filed friend of the court briefs on behalf of the Education Department, welcomed the court's decision. "After almost four years, we hope the last word on this case has been spoken," said Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the center. "Title IX cannot be blamed for cuts to men’s teams. It’s high time the wrestlers stopped using this important law as a scapegoat for their own problems."

The women's law center and the Education Department have not been on the same side much as of late. The legal group has attacked the department's decision to issue new guidance that gives colleges significantly more leeway to show that they are not discriminating against female athletes.


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