U.S.District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr.recently ruled in favor of UC Davis in a Title IX lawsuit filed by four women who lost their spots on the intercollegiate wrestling team in 2001.
The ruling shouldn’tcome as a surprise.UC Davis is a renownedproponent of women’s athletics,havingtwicebeen namedthe “BestUniversity for Women Athletes” among Division II programs bySports Illustratedsince the year2000.In addition,the university’s selection of varsity athletic programs has been fair.
This particular case,however,wasn’t dismissed because of the university’ssupport of its female athletes– it was dismissed on a legal technicality.
A dismissal in this fashion is unfortunate for UC Davis,as it could suggest that the university escaped merely due to a technicality.A ruling on UC Davis‘ decisions could have shed light on a controversial issue.
The controversy escalated when Lennie Zalesky was named UC Davis‘ new head wrestling coach in2001,andhe required every wrestler on the team to tryoutfor their spot on the roster – regardless of sex.The plaintiffs,who were given a chance to tryout,lost their slots.
After failing to make theICA team,thefour female athletescould havestarted a women’s club wrestling team,giving them the chance to both compete and potentially grow toICA status.While it may seem like a poor substitute,the reality is that UC Davis cannot accommodate every athlete with a spot on the varsity team of their choosing.In sports such as rugby,men’s lacrosse and fieldhockey,UC Davis does not have the resources to fundICA teams,but athletes continue to find ample opportunity to compete nationally on club teams.
The university did bring an additional women’sICA team to the fold in2005in the form of the women’s golf program.UC Davis made the right call in adding the golf team over a wrestling team forseveral reasons,one of whichis that the women’s golf teamwasimmediately eligible to compete in the Big West Conference as the school transitioned to the Division I era,something that would not be possible for women’s wrestling.
The UC Davis athletics program houses an impressive14women’s varsity teams versus12men’s teams,which is well above the national average of8.4women’s squads.There will always be athletes – males and females – who tryout for and do not make teams based on their abilities.