Coalition Seeking to Block JMU From Cutting Sports

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A coalition of sports participants and fans has asked a federal judge to block James Madison University's plan to eliminate 10 athletic teams while the group's lawsuit challenging the cuts is pending.

Equity in Athletics Inc. filed a motion for a preliminary injunction Friday. U.S. District Judge Glen Conrad has not yet scheduled a hearing.

JMU's Board of Visitors announced last September that it would cut 10 sports teams to comply with Title IX, the federal law that requires equality in men's and women's intercollegiate athletics programs. The university said Title IX requires equal participation in sports based on enrollment. Under the plan, total participation in athletics would move to 61 percent female and 39 percent male, which matches current student enrollment figures of about 16,900 students.

The coalition of 450 student athletes, coaches, parents and fans was formed in February. The group sued the U.S. Department of Education the following month, claiming that requiring gender proportionality with enrollment rates is unconstitutional.

Last week, the group added JMU, university President Linwood Rose, Athletic Director Jeffrey Bourne and the Board of Visitors to the lawsuit.

The school plans to eliminate men's archery, cross-country, gymnastics, indoor track, outdoor track, swimming and wrestling, as well as women's archery, fencing and gymnastics. The cuts are expected to take effect July 1.

"The opportunity to compete in intercollegiate athletics is fleeting and, once gone, is forever gone," the plaintiffs said. "Accordingly, EIA's members on the teams scheduled for elimination face imminent and irreparable harm, which this Court can neither calculate nor reduce to money damages."

-- From News Services

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