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Judge rejects JMU male jocks’ Title IX claim

A Harrisonburg federal district judge has rejected a challenge to federal Title IX guidelines that led to the demise last year of multiple men’s sport teams at James Madison University.

On Aug. 21, U.S. District Judge Glen Conrad denied a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the gender-equity regulations that allegedly allow colleges to use gender-conscious capping or cutting of male athletic programs.

Plaintiff Equity in Athletics Inc., a nonprofit coalition of coaches, student-athletes, alumni, fans and booster clubs, said the regulations led JMU to drop men’s teams for swimming and diving, track and field, cross country and wrestling programs. The university also eliminated men’s and women’s archery and gymnastics programs, as well as women’s fencing.

The university made the changes in response to Title IX’s proportionality requirements, which it said mandated that a school’s athletic programs mirror its undergraduate gender mix. In JMU’s case, that’s 61 percent female and 39 percent male.

Conrad said in his published opinion in Equity in Athletics Inc. v. Dep’t of Education that the harms identified by the plaintiff – including students’ athletic careers interrupted or halted – were “emotionally compelling,” but Equity’s arguments against the time-tested legal framework for the university’s actions were unlikely to succeed on the merits.

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