In March 2009, the defendant, Quinnipiac University announced plans to cut its women’s volleyball team, men’s golf team, and men’s outdoor track team. At the same time, the University pledged to create a new varsity sport, competitive cheerleading, for the 2009-10 season. Plaintiffs -- five current Quinnipiac women’s varsity volleyball players, and their coach filed this lawsuit against Quinnipiac in response, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, on April 16, 2009. They were represented by the ACLU, and their complaint alleged that Quinnipiac’s decision to eliminate its volleyball team violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C. § 162, et seq.) and its regulations (34 C.F.R. Part 106).
On May 22, 2009, the District Court (Judge Stefan Underhill) granted a preliminary injunction, preventing Quinnipiac from eliminating women's volleyball as a varsity sport. The court held that Quinnipiac's "roster management" deprived women students of equal participation opportunities in varsity sports. This worked as follows, Judge Underhill explained: Quinnipiac insisted that various women's sports have a "roster floor" -- a team count padded by athletes not actually needed for the team, so that a number of purported players actually had as their "principal role" "to provide a gender statistic rather than a meaningful contribution to the team." Conversely, as is common in competitive sports, male teams had a roster cap, so that some men interested and able to play were not afforded the chance. Accordingly, even though the gender split among varsity student athletes at Quinnipiac seemed to track the student gender demographics more generally, the Court held that this proportionality was actually illusory. Biediger v. Quinnipiac Univ., 616 F. Supp. 2d 277 (D. Conn. 2009)
About a year later, on May 20, 2010, the district court certified the class of: "All present, prospective, and future female students at Quinnipiac University who are harmed by and want to end Quinnipiac University's sex discrimination in: (1) the allocation of athletic participation opportunities; (2) the allocation of athletic financial assistance; and (3) the allocation of benefits provided to varsity athletes." 2010 WL 2017773. A bench trial was then held from June 21 to June 25, 2010, on the Title IX theory that Quinnipiac discriminated in 2009 and 2010 on the basis of sex in its allocation of athletic participation opportunities.
Judge Underhill found for the plaintiffs in a decision published July 21, 2010. Biediger v. Quinnipiac University, 728 F.Supp.2d 62 (2010). He held that the University’s competitive cheerleading team did not qualify as a varsity sport for the purposes of Title IX and, therefore, its members could not be counted as athletic participants under the statute: "Competitive cheer may, some time in the future, qualify as a sport under Title IX; today, however, the activity is still too underdeveloped and disorganized to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic participation opportunities for students." In addition, the Court held, Quinnipiac was impermissibly triple counting women cross-country runners, tallying them, as well, as participants in indoor and outdoor track, even when they did not in fact so participate. Finally, some of the problematic roster management continued. Cutting volleyball, the Court concluded, would only exacerbate the ongoing violation of Title XI. Accordingly, the Court prohibited the immediate elimination of women's volleyball, in 2010-2011, although it made clear that Quinnipiac could subsequently cancel that team, "so long as any decision to eliminate women's volleyball is accompanied by other changes that will bring the University into compliance with Title IX." The Court required Quinnipiac to submit a compliance plan within 60 days, which Quinnipiac did; plaintiffs opposed that plan as inadequate.
Quinnipiac appealed the underlying finding of the district court while it continued to litigate about compliance. (The court stated its view that the compliance plan was likely adequate, and set the issue of Title IX compliance for a future hearing. Quinnipiac filed a motion to terminate the injunction and the Court's supervision, and a hearing was begun in June 2012; additional days of that hearing were scheduled for March 2013.)
On appeal, in an opinion dated August 7, 2012, by Judge Reena Raggi, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's findings and injunction in their entirety. A number of organizations joined the litigation as amici curiae -- the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the National Women's Law Center (joined on the brief by dozens of other women's organizations) supported the plaintiffs; the Eagle Forum Education and Legal Defense Fund supported Quinnipiac. - 08/09/2012