ECU athletics faces potential lawsuit over elimination of women’s sports teams

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – East Carolina University’s athletics department could face a potential lawsuit over the elimination of the women’s swimming and diving and tennis teams.

Those teams were cut in May due to financial difficulties caused by the pandemic. A California lawyer representing those women’s teams, Arthur Bryant, says he’s prepared to take the case to court if ECU doesn’t reinstate the women’s teams voluntarily.

“I got a call by women at ECU saying, ‘Here’s what happened to us. Are they violating Title IX?’ And the short answer is yes, they are. Clearly,” said Bryant.

Title IX is a federal law prohibiting sexual discrimination by institutions receiving federal funding. Under Title IX, participation in university athletics must match undergraduate enrollment rates.

“But at ECU, the undergraduate enrollment rate is 56.67 percent,” said Bryant. “Almost 57 percent of the undergraduates are women. But they’re only getting, after these cuts, 50.49 percent of the opportunities to play sports.”

Bryant calls that a clear Title IX violation, and he said this isn’t his first rodeo.

“I was actually the lead trial counsel in the very first Title IX case in the country against a school for discriminating against its women’s athletes,” he said. “It was in 1985 against Temple University in Philadelphia.”

Bryant sent a letter ECU officials last month, seeking the reinstatement of the women’s swimming/diving and tennis teams. The attorney gave ECU administrators a short time to decide how they would proceed.

“I heard from ECU’s new outside counsel (Tuesday),” he said. “He told me that he, too, believed this case could be resolved without the need for us to go to court, and he was eager to talk to me. But he didn’t want to talk to me until next week, and I told him that wasn’t soon enough.”

For Bryant, there’s an appropriate sports analogy. The ball is in ECU’s court.

“Basically, it’s ECU’s choice how this proceeds,” he said. “Either it can voluntarily put these women’s teams back and comply with federal law or we’ll go to court and force it to comply with federal law.”

WNCT did reach out to ECU Wednesday to ask about Bryant’s letter and the potential lawsuit. Officials said they don’t comment on potential litigation.

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