As Kris noted recently, the University of California, Berkeley athletic department has been considering eliminating sports as a cost-reduction measure. So it is sadly no surprise that the Chancellor has announced that baseball, men’s and women’s gymnastics, women’s lacrosse, and men’s rugby will be no longer be varsity sports. Men’s rugby will occupy a new “varsity club” status.
I have a couple of questions about whether this decision complies with Title IX. First, what is varsity club status? It seems like the rugby team will continue to receive some university support — more than the club teams receive but not as much as varsity teams receive. Title IX does not preclude Cal from making up new status labels for its sports, but those labels must be equitably applied. If a women’s sports asks for “varsity club” status, I cannot see the grounds on which Cal would deny them.
Second, I have concerns that the resulting distribution of athletic opportunities complies with Title IX. Before the cuts, Cal could have claimed compliance with prong two or prong three, but eliminating women’s teams forecloses that option. This leaves prong one: substantial proportionality. As Kris noted in her earlier post, Cal’s women received about 41% of the total athletic opportunities (385/948), despite constituting about 53% of the student body. After the cuts, they still receive about 41% (385-45/948-102*). There is no way a 12 percentage points qualifies as substantial proportionality, so my question is, on what basis is Cal making that claim?
* This denominator figure is adjusted by the loss of both gymnastics teams, baseball, and lacrosse. I did not subtract the 60 terminated opportunities in rugby from the denominator. because Cal’s EADA report did not include men’s rugby when calculating the total number of athletic opportunities.