Appeals court: Quinnipiac University can't cut women's volleyball

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Quinnipiac University fails to provide equal athletic opportunities for women, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The court on Aug. 7 upheld an order that requires the school to stop discriminating against female athletes.

The three-judge panel upheld a 2010 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Stefan R. Underhill, who ordered Quinnipiac to maintain its women’s varsity volleyball team until it can prove it complies with Title IX, the law requiring universities that receive federal funding to provide equal athletic participation opportunities for men and women.

“We expect the Second Circuit’s decision to finally persuade Quinnipiac and any other university in violation of Title IX to stop fighting gender equity and start providing meaningful and equal athletic opportunities for women,” said Sandra Staub, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut. The Second Circuit characterized Underhill’s decision as a “comprehensive and well-reasoned opinion.”

Shortly after Quinnipiac announced in 2009 that it planned to eliminate its women’s volleyball team in favor of competitive cheerleading, the ACLU of Connecticut sued.

Underhill ruled in 2010 that the case was a class action on behalf of all present and future female Quinnipiac students.

“All students, regardless of sex, are required by law to have the same meaningful athletic opportunities available to them,” said Lenora Lapidus, director of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “Cutting corners doesn’t meet this standard and female athletes deserve better.”

The appeals court ruled, "Like the district court, we acknowledge record evidence showing that competitive cheerleading can be physically challenging, requiring competitors to possess ‘strength, agility, and grace.' Similarly, we do not foreclose the possibility that the activity, with better organization and defined rules, might someday warrant recognition as a varsity sport. But, like the district court, we conclude that the record evidence shows that ‘that time has not yet arrived.’”

Quinnipiac is a private university located 90 minutes north of New York City and two hours from Boston in Hamden, Conn.