NEW YORK, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Competitive cheerleading does
not qualify as a sport under Title IX, a federal appeals court
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that Quinnipiac
University discriminated against women, after the Connecticut
school eliminated the women's volleyball team and replaced it
with competitive cheerleading.
While competitive cheerleading is "physically challenging"
and requires competitors to possess "strength, agility and
grace," Quinnipiac's program does not yet have the hallmarks of
a varsity athletic sport, the court held.
The decision to categorize a varsity sport under Title IX --
a federal law requiring schools to provide equal opportunities
in varsity sports to men and women -- is made by the U.S.
Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, which enforces
the law. In 2008, the OCR issued two letters saying competitive
cheerleading was presumed not to be a sport and its participants
could not be counted as athletes under Title IX.
The case was brought by members of Quinnipiac's women's
volleyball team, who claimed the university's decision to
replace volleyball with competitive cheerleading during the
2009-10 season violated Title IX.
In determining Title IX compliance, the OCR will consider
factors such as whether the number of men and women on sports
teams is proportional to the respective numbers enrolled at the
In 2010, U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill found that
Quinnipiac had manipulated its team rosters by undercounting men
and overcounting women to make it appear as if the genders were
None of Quinnipiac's 30 competitive cheerleaders counted as
varsity athletes, Underhill ruled, because the event was not
recognized as a varsity sport by the OCR. He ordered Quinnipiac
to reinstate the volleyball team.
Quinnipiac appealed, arguing that it had not miscounted its
athletes and that competitive cheerleaders should have been
included in the final tally.
The 2nd Circuit disagreed.
"(W)e do not foreclose the possibility that the activity,
with better organization and defined rules, might some day
warrant recognition as a varsity sport," U.S. Circuit Judge
Reena Raggi wrote. "But, like the district court, we conclude
that the record evidence shows that 'that time has not yet
Raggi was joined by judges Ralph Winter and Denny Chin.
"We're very happy -- it's a great victory," said Jonathan
Orleans, a lawyer at Pullman and Comley representing the
plaintiffs. "The 2nd Circuit goes right down the line and
affirms Judge Underhill on every major point."
Sandra Straub, legal director for the American Civil
Liberties Union in Connecticut, said that the decision could
"finally persuade Quinnipiac and any other university in
violation of Title IX to stop fighting gender equity and start
providing meaningful and equal athletic opportunities for
Lynn Bushnell, vice president for public affairs at
Quinnipiac, said in a statement the university was
"disappointed" with the ruling. "Quinnipiac will continue to
enhance opportunities for our female student-athletes,"
The case is Biediger et al. v. Quinnipiac University, 2nd
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 10-3302.
For the plaintiffs: Alex Hernandez and Jonathan Orleans of
Pullman & Comley, Kristen Galles of Equity Legal, and Lenora
Lapidus and Galen Sherwin of the American Civil Liberties Union.
For Quinnipiac: Edward Brill and Andrew Rice of Proskauer
(Reporting by Jessica Dye)
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