The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed a ruling that the National Wrestling Coaches Association and other athletic groups failed to show that the anti-discrimination law known as Title IX directly caused a reduction in men's sports.

The three-judge appeals panel said in its 2-1 decision that the parties lacked standing to file the lawsuit, which it said should be litigated against individual colleges that eliminated men's sports, not the federal government.

In his dissent, Senior Judge Stephen Williams argued the athletic groups had alleged a substantial enough link between the Education Department's policies and program cuts to allow the lawsuit to go forward.

The number of girls participating in high school athletics rose from 294,000 in 1971 to 2.8 million in 2002. The number of women in college sports increased fivefold during the same time. But about 400 men's college teams were eliminated during the 1990s, with wrestling taking a particularly hard hit as schools attempted to meet the law's requirement that the ratio of male and female athletes be similar to the overall student population.

Mike Moyer, executive director of the wrestling coaches association, said his group would appeal to the full appeals court.

-- Associated Press