Court Case: Burch, et al. v. Regents of the University of California, et al.

Case Adopted 05/05

Case Update 12/07:
Burch reached a final settlement agreement with UC-Davis in January 2007 and received $725,000.

Case History

Michael Burch, former head wrestling coach at the University of California-Davis (UC-Davis), sued the Regents of the University of California for retaliation in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and other federal laws.

UC-Davis hired Burch in 1995 as the head coach of its Division I wrestling team. In addition to his position as head wrestling coach, he also became a lecturer in the university’s religious studies and exercise science departments. Prior to Burch’s arrival at UC-Davis, the university had employed four different head wrestling coaches in six years, and the team itself had failed to win any dual meets for the past two years. In his first year alone, Burch led his team to five dual meet wins and qualified a wrestler for the NCAA national wrestling championships. During his six-year tenure, Burch was named UC-Davis Coach of the Year twice, led his team to more dual meet victories than any other previous wrestling coach at the university, and qualified numerous wrestlers to both the PAC-10 Conference and NCAA wrestling championships.

Burch was committed to providing wrestling opportunities to both male and female students at UC-Davis. Both male and female wrestlers at the university were certified for NCAA athletic eligibility, practiced as UC-Davis wrestlers, and received all the coaching and other benefits of NCAA-athlete status at the university, such as athletic financial aid. Burch alleges that in fall 2000 the athletic director and an associate athletic director informed him that the university would no longer offer participation on the UC-Davis wrestling team to female students, citing concerns about insurance and liability. He further alleges that throughout that fall and the winter, he and the female wrestlers affected by this decision met with other school officials in an attempt to have this decision rescinded. They were unsuccessful.

In March 2001, after Burch’s and the female wrestlers’ failed attempts to have women’s participation on the UC-Davis wrestling team reinstated, an associate athletic director contacted Burch to congratulate him on a successful season and to discuss the opportunity of continued employment as the head wrestling coach. That April, the female wrestlers filed a sex discrimination complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), and the agency began an investigation into the women’s complaint shortly thereafter.

Burch states that throughout spring 2001, he spoke publicly about his support for the female wrestlers, whose OCR complaint had already garnered media attention. He alleges that although he and UC-Davis officials had several contract renewal meetings during this time, the university ultimately declined to renew both his wrestling coach and lecturer contracts for the 2001-2002 academic year. Burch filed a complaint with OCR later in 2001, alleging retaliation for complaining about discriminatory treatment on behalf of the female wrestlers and supporting their OCR complaint of sex discrimination.

Burch filed his case in federal court in 2003. In March 2004, the court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss Burch’s Title IX claim. The university filed a motion for summary judgment, but the judge denied the university’s motion and found sufficient evidence to send the case to a jury.

Key Case Issues

Retaliation in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.