Florida State’s Refusal to Elevate Girls’s Lacrosse to Varsity Standing Prompts Title IX Allegations – Sports activities Legislation Knowledgeable

(Editor’s notice: The next article is reprinted from Sports Litigation Alert, a subscription-based publication that has been produced for 20 years and includes a searchable archive of shut to five,000 articles and case summaries.)

By Ellen J. Staurowsky, Ed.D., Senior Author, and Professor, Sports activities Media, Roy H. Park College of Communications, Ithaca School

The query of whether or not Florida State College (FSU) can efficiently argue it’s in compliance with Title IX of the Training Amendments Act of 1972 is an open one for the time being. On July 7, 2023, Sophia Villalonga, a second-year graduate pupil who’s a member of the FSU girls’s lacrosse crew petitioned athletics directors on behalf of herself and her teammates to raise the crew from membership to varsity standing. Empowered by data they discovered about Title IX’s utility to athletic departments after studying a USA Right now sequence on the shortfalls in Title IX compliance in school and college athletic departments final 12 months, the crew put collectively an utility for ladies’s lacrosse to be added as a varsity sport that included a proposed finances, data relating to the membership’s historical past and present standing, a draft apply and recreation schedule, and letters of help from head coaches at Duke and South Florida (Schnell, 2023).

Based on Lindsay Schnell (2023) with USA Right now, FSU athletics administrator Janeen Lalik responded again to Villalonga in an electronic mail two weeks later, writing “presently, we aren’t actively evaluating the addition of any sports activities packages to our present assortment of groups” (para. 6).  The ladies’s lacrosse crew subsequently enlisted the help of high-profile Title IX litigator with Bailey Glasser, Arthur Bryant, who despatched a requirement letter stating that given FSU’s compliance historical past, it’s determination to not take into account the petition from girls’s lacrosse and elevate the crew to varsity standing constituted a “flagrant violation of Title IX” (Schnell, 2023).

As a foundational matter, compliance begins with the query of whether or not faculties are providing girls athletes equal entry to athletic participation alternatives in comparison with males athletes. Utilizing a three-part check, girls athletes ought to obtain alternatives to compete on varsity groups at a price proportional to their enrollment within the undergraduate pupil inhabitants.  Failing that, an establishment should show that they’ve a historical past and persevering with of program enlargement if girls are underrepresented in athletics OR that the dearth of proportional alternative is because of the truth that the establishment has made efforts to fulfill current pursuits and skills of girls athletes.

Primarily based on publicly out there information offered by FSU within the annual report required by the Fairness in Athletics Disclosure Act, the details weigh closely on the facet of the FSU girls’s lacrosse gamers.  An examination of FSU’s provision of athletic alternatives to girls athletes between the reporting years of 2012 by way of 2021 reveal that FSU has not been offering proportional athletic alternatives to girls athletes, with a mean hole over that 10-year interval of 6 %. Whereas the hole has fluctuated considerably through the years, throughout the previous 5 years the hole has grown bigger, with an 11% hole reported in 2021. Girls athletes had 34 fewer athletic alternatives in 2021 than they did in 2012 whereas there have been 24 extra athletic alternatives supplied to males athletes throughout that very same span of time.

At current, FSU affords these varsity sports activities for ladies: basketball, seashore volleyball, cross nation, indoor and out of doors monitor and subject, golf, soccer, softball, tennis, and volleyball. In reviewing a 50-year historical past of FSU girls’s athletics produced by the athletic division in 2018 in addition to media guides and document books for particular person varsity girls’s sports activities, 8 of the ten varsity sports activities supplied for ladies have been began between 1968 and 1977.  Girls’s soccer was then added in 1995 with a choice so as to add seashore volleyball in 2011, with that sport beginning its first season in 2012.  With this historical past, it’s unlikely that FSU might persuasively argue that it has had a historical past and persevering with apply of program enlargement, on condition that FSU would want so as to add 100 roster spots to shut the proportionality hole.

By refusing so as to add girls’s lacrosse, FSU violates the third a part of the check. A longtime crew with 26 members, FSU girls’s membership lacrosse crew debuted on the nationwide scene in 2021-2022 with an look within the first-ever Girls’s Collegiate Lacrosse Associates DI Nationals. On the finish of that season, they have been ranked 11th amongst Division I girls’s membership lacrosse groups. In the course of the 2022-2023 season, they have been ranked as excessive as 8th within the nation (Garvey, 2023; Leytham, 2023). Lacrosse has been recognized as a sport that’s rising and one which ESPN has invested in throughout all ranges, together with holding broadcast rights for the World Lacrosse championships for women and men; Athletes Limitless (girls’s out of doors lacrosse); the Premier Lacrosse League (males’s out of doors); the Nationwide Lacrosse League (males’s indoor); and NCAA males’s and girls’s championships. In 2022, the NCAA Division I girls’s lacrosse championship drew a bigger variety of viewers than the boys’s championship (600,000 in comparison with 500,000) (Riccio, 2022). Based on the Nationwide Federation of State Excessive College Associations (NFSH), women’ lacrosse at the highschool stage is among the many prime 10 sports activities which can be hottest with 96,762 women in 3,028 packages taking part throughout the 2021-2022 tutorial 12 months.

This case is attention-grabbing for a number of causes. First, it raises the query of whether or not there’s an ongoing Title IX auditing course of in place for athletic packages and whether or not processes are in place to assessment membership sport purposes from girls athletes who’re underserved by way of proportional varsity alternatives by their athletic departments.  Whereas FSU’s deputy athletics director for exterior operations, Janeen Lalik, responded to the ladies’s lacrosse crew by saying that the athletic division was not actively evaluating any sports activities so as to add to FSU varsity sport choices, the absence of a course of itself might be problematic from the standpoint that it is perhaps construed that FSU has no course of in place to guage the third a part of the three-part-test or any a part of the three-part-test. Second, if FSU is counting on the second a part of the three-part-test, does including a sport greater than a decade earlier whereas nonetheless falling wanting providing girls proportional alternatives 50 years after the passage of Title IX when girls athletes have demonstrated each curiosity and skill represent a historical past and persevering with apply of program enlargement? In impact, if girls have been disadvantaged of athletic alternatives for greater than a decade at a magnitude that justified not simply the including of 1 girls’s sport however as many as three, can a college efficiently search cowl underneath half two of the three-part-test? And third, the truth that girls lacrosse gamers discovered concerning the steps they need to take to advocate for his or her rights underneath Title IX is without delay reassuring but additionally revealing.  It’s reassuring that publications like USA Right now are serving the general public good in exactly the way in which meant by educating folks about what they should know. On the similar time, FSU, as a matter of obligation underneath Title IX, must be educating constituencies like athletes about their rights underneath Title IX. The absence of such training might add to FSU’s Title IX points.


Fairness in Athletics Disclosure Act Slicing Device.  Washington, DC: U.S. Division of Training. Retrieved from https://ope.ed.gov/athletics/#/

Florida State Athletic Communications Employees. (2018, August 20). Celebrating 50 years of girls’s athletics. Retrieved from https://seminoles.com/news/2018/8/20/50thanniversary

Florida State College Athletic Communications Employees. (2023). Media Information – Seaside Volleyball.Retrieved from https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/sidearm.nextgen.websites/fsuni.sidearmsports.com/paperwork/2023/6/21/2023-Seaside-Media-Information.pdf?timestamp=20230621082218

Florida State College Athletic Communications Employees. (2023). Media Information – Soccer. Retrieved from https://s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/sidearm.nextgen.sites/fsuni.sidearmsports.com/documents/2023/8/3/2023_Soccer_Media_Guide.pdf?timestamp=20230804025451

Florida State Athletic Communications Employees. (2023). Document guide – cross nation. Retrieved from https://seminoles.com/documents/2023/6/21/Cross-Country-Record-Book.pdf

Garvey, E. (2023, March 26). FSU girls’s lacrosse faces off for the spring season. FSUNews.com. Retrieved from https://www.fsunews.com/story/sports/2023/03/26/womens-lacrosse-strives-for-victory/70049293007/

Leytham, T. (2023, Could 15). Girls’s lacrosse units the tempo for continued progress. Sports activities Occasions Media Group. Retrieved from https://sportseventsmediagroup.com/womens-lacrosse-sets-the-pace-for-continued-growth/

Nationwide Federation of State Excessive College Associations. (2022). Highschool athletics participation survey. Retrieved from https://www.nfhs.org/media/5989280/2021-22_participation_survey.pdf

Riccio, M. (2022, November 17). Lacrosse’s newest progress spurt positions sport to develop attain. Sportico.com. Retrieved from https://www.sportico.com/leagues/other-sports/2022/lacrosses-growth-spurt-positions-more-growth-1234692939/

Schnell. L. (2023, August 2). Florida State girls’s lacrosse seeks varsity sports activities standing, citing Title IX. USA Right now. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports activities/school/lacrosse/2023/08/02/florida-state-sports-womens-lacrosse-title-ix-varsity/70508793007/