WILLIAMSBURG, FEB. 12 -- Four sports, including women's basketball, were eliminated today by William and Mary in a cost-cutting move designed to trim $300,000 from the budget of the athletic department.
The other sports eliminated were men's wrestling and men's and women's swimming. The cuts are effective at the end of the school year.
But the elimination of the women's basketball program may violate Title IX guidelines for women's sports, according to both the Women's Basketball Coaches Association and the Women's Sports Foundation.
Title IX says that a school must offer similar opportunities for both women and men to compete in sports. While the reduction leaves William and Mary, a Division I school, with 21 sports -- 11 men's and 10 women's -- Arthur Bryant, executive director of the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, said the reduction is a violation.
Bryant, who was contacted by members of the women's team today, has successfully handled similar situations at Temple and Oklahoma.
"There are two ways of looking at it," said Bryant. "One is that the whole program must provide equal numbers of opportunities for men and women. The number of sports has nothing to do with it.
"The second guideline deals with specific sports. The rule says that if a college offers a sport to men, it must also offer it to women unless women don't want to participate."
That stipulation would apply to a contact sport such as football. In this case, however, the women's basketball team includes 10 underclassmen who have expressed a desire to continue playing.
Athletic Director John Randolph said the decision to cut the sports was made reluctantly.
"It's an extremely difficult decision because of its effect on individuals," said Randolph. "But we have to balance the budget on a five-year plan and this cut appears to be the best way to accomplish that goal."
Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder has ordered all state colleges and universities to trim their budgets by more than 5 percent in the next biennium to help ease the state's $2.2 billion shortfall.
Randolph said he believed the school was still in Title IX compliance because of the number of sports it offers.
Randolph also said all players will retain their scholarships until they complete their educations.
Women's basketball coach Pat Megel said he was not surprised by the decision. "This has been hanging over our heads for 10 months," he said. "I can't say I'm shocked but I'm very disappointed. I think women's basketball has been a target for awhile here."