Federal Judge Restrains UCONN from Eliminating Its Women's Rowing Team Reports Duffy Law

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United States District Judge for the District of Connecticut Stefan R. Underhill granted a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the University of Connecticut on Wednesday, May 26, 2021, preventing it from eliminating its women’s rowing program. In response to the school’s decision to permanently cut the team at the conclusion of its 2021 season, 12 team members initiated a federal class-action lawsuit alleging a variety of violations of their rights under Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972 (Title IX).

The TRO ruling (Ruling) keeps in place the team’s financial support, coaching contracts, and access to facilities, among other program elements, which were slated to end this season.

After a hearing on Plaintiffs’ motion for a TRO, Judge Underhill found “that there is a substantial likelihood of success on [the Plaintiffs’] Title IX claim.” He further found that eliminating the team now would result in “immediate irreparable harm” to the Plaintiffs, whose next step is to seek a longer-term preliminary injunction requiring that their team be reinstated until a full trial on the merits of the case. The TRO ruling (Ruling) keeps in place the team’s financial support, coaching contracts, and access to facilities, among other program elements, which were slated to end this season.

The complaint alleged that UCONN was not effectively accommodating the interests and abilities of its female students, including failing to offer substantially equal athletic opportunities proportional to their undergraduate populations, as required by Title IX.

The Ruling addresses legal issues that affect colleges and universities across the country as they struggle with their athletic budgets and Title IX compliance. The Ruling “reject[ed] UConn’s argument that the size of ‘a viable team’ is calculated solely by identifying the average size of female squads at the university at issue[,]” which had been recently argued by other universities in Title IX cases. The Ruling further found: “[c]onsidering the average size of a women’s team at UConn would thus be counter to the goals of Title IX; it would reward UConn for artificially inflating the roster size to circumvent the statute’s mandate.”

Judge Underhill’s TRO Ruling and the Plaintiffs’ Complaint. Case number 3:21-cv-00583-SRU

The Plaintiffs are represented by Attorney Felice Duffy of Duffy Law, LLC in New Haven, CT, and Co-Counsel James Larew and Claire Diallo of Larew Law Office in Iowa City, Iowa.

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