Judge Orders Eastern Michigan to Reinstate 2 Teams

February 18, 2019

A federal judge has ordered Eastern Michigan University to reinstate its women’s tennis and softball teams by fall 2019, saying that the institution is out of compliance with the law that requires gender equity in athletics.

Eastern Michigan announced last March it would eliminate four varsity sports, including women’s tennis and softball, for a total of $2.4 million in savings. The move was unpopular, and students and faculty questioned why the university hadn’t eliminated its losing football program instead.

A women’s tennis player and a softball player filed a federal lawsuit in June, alleging that Eastern Michigan was not accommodating female athletes.

The university agreed to bring back women’s tennis, and pitched instead adding women’s lacrosse in lieu of softball.

But U.S. District Judge Caram Steeh in his ruling last week said that a softball coach must be hired by April 1, and EMU must set aside money for the same number of staffers and coaches it had for the two programs before they were eliminated. Steeh insinuated in the ruling that even with the return of the two teams, the university might be out of step with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law protecting against gender discrimination.

“We are extremely happy with the court’s order,” Jill Zwagerman, an attorney for the athletes, told MLive.com. “Our clients are truly excited to get back to practicing and playing the sports they love. We are hopeful with this ruling that EMU can finally move forward with providing equal opportunities to all of its student athletes. The court has ordered EMU now twice to reinstate women’s tennis and softball. It’s time for EMU to do its part in complying with Title IX.”

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