An appeals court decision that LSU intentionally discriminated against female athletes means thousands of current and former students might join a lawsuit seeking money, a lawyer said yesterday.

A panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered U.S. District Judge Rebecca Doherty to reconsider her decision denying class action status to the lawsuit filed by three female soccer players and two softball players.

If Doherty reverses herself, that means all women who played sports at Louisiana State since 1993 could be added as plaintiffs, said Nancy Rafuse, lawyer for the five players. She said: "Throwing in intramural and club sports, you could be talking thousands."

A federal law would prevent female athletes who left the school before 1993 from joining the lawsuit, Rafuse said. LSU officials had not decided yesterday whether they would comment on the appeals court decision.

The unanimous ruling, released Thursday by the three-member appeals panel, described the LSU athletic department's attitude toward women as "motivated by chauvinist notions."

The finding reversed a 1996 finding by Doherty that LSU had "archaic and antiquated" views about female athletes but did not intend to violate Title IX, the federal law requiring equal athletic opportunities at schools accepting federal funding.

The appeals panel ruling particularly criticized AD Joe Dean. He said LSU's first women's softball team was disbanded because of the sexual preference of the players, and allegedly told one plaintiff if he had to start a women's sport, he'd prefer soccer because players "look cute in their shorts."