East Carolina University announced on Jan. 7 it will reinstate its women’s swimming and diving and tennis teams after it cut the programs in May 2020, due to a projected $20 million lost in revenue from athletics as a result of COVID-19.
ECU Athletic Director Jon Gilbert said there are currently no plans to reinstate the men’s teams for the respective sports. With this reinstatement, ECU will have 18 cumulative athletic programs, including 11 women’s programs.
“We are looking forward to having women’s swimming and diving along with tennis return as a part of our sports offerings,” Gilbert said.
In November 2020, anonymous individuals from the cut women’s teams filed a lawsuit against ECU. They claimed that removal of these teams was a violation of Title IX due to opportunities for women to participate in sports at ECU no longer being proportional to the population percentage women hold on campus. Arthur Bryant, an attorney who works for the Bailey and Glasser law firm office in Oakland, California, represented these individuals.
“We worked with a Title IX consultant on how best to address our compliance with Title IX while also addressing our financial issues,” Gilbert said. “Title IX is an ongoing commitment and it’s a priority for our university and athletics department.”
Bryant said ECU has a 6.08% gap between the undergraduate enrollment rate and intercollegiate athletic participation rate among women at ECU. He said the university would need exactly 70 more women student athletes to reach gender equity under Title IX.
“This is a major victory for women athletes at ECU, Title IX, and all who care about gender equity and the law,” said Bryant. “The elimination of these women’s teams flagrantly violated Title IX. ECU should be praised for agreeing to reinstate the teams.”
Initially, ECU had cut the programs due to budget concerns. Gilbert said the programs would be funded by money which was saved by coaches who took pay cuts due to COVID-19, but the funding was still something that needed to be worked on.
According to a statement from Bailey and Glasser law firm, a new coaching staff for each of the programs will need to be hired and that will help decide the date for competition for these programs.
ECU will reinstate these teams and develop a gender equity plan that ensures that ECU’s athletics complies with Title IX in the future, no later than Dec. 31, 2021, according to the settlement.