Court Case: National Wrestling Coaches Association, et al. v. United States Department of Education

Case History

In January 2002, the National Wrestling Coaches Association, together with the Committee to Save Bucknell Wrestling, Marquette Wrestling Club, Yale Wrestling Association, and College Sports Council, filed suit against the U.S. Department of Education. In their complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that the department’s interpretation of Title IX and its regulations has had a discriminatory impact on male athletes. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that through its investigations, settlements, and administrative enforcement actions, the Department of Education directly and indirectly reduced participation opportunities for male athletes by eliminating men’s athletic teams altogether or by limiting the number of participants on men’s teams. The plaintiffs further argued that even without any action on the part of the Department of Education, institutions voluntarily limited men’s athletic participation opportunities to avoid such actions by the agency.

The Department of Education filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ suit in May 2002 on grounds that the plaintiffs could not trace their alleged injuries to the Title IX policies and regulations that were challenged. One month later, the National Women’s Law Center filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the American Association of University Women, American Volleyball Coaches Association, National Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association, National Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association, Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, and Women’s Sports Foundation. The brief supported the long-standing Title IX policies that have been in place since 1975, and urged the court to reject the suit.

In June 2003, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the Department of Education’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint in its entirety. The plaintiffs appealed this decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which upheld the lower court’s ruling in May 2004.

Key Issues

Sex discrimination in athletics in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.