GREENVILLE — East Carolina University will add women’s swimming and diving and women’s tennis to its intercollegiate sports effective immediately.
Athletics will begin the process of hiring head coaches so recruitment of student-athletes to the women’s programs can also commence, according to ECU Director of Athletics Jon Gilbert. A timetable of when the competition will begin – Fall 2021 or later – will be determined after a coaching staff is hired.
In May 2020, ECU announced the reduction of intercollegiate varsity programs by four, including
women’s swimming and diving and women’s tennis. Restarting those two programs will bring ECU’s
cumulative varsity sports count to 18, with 11 women’s athletic programs.
In an ongoing commitment to NCAA best practices and compliance with federal and state law including Title IX, the university will begin developing a Gender Equity Plan over the next year with input from student-athletes on each team. The plan will provide ECU with a blueprint for assessing, monitoring, and enhancing gender equity in intercollegiate athletics.
“We are looking forward to having women’s swimming and diving along with women’s tennis return as a part of our sports offerings,” Gilbert said. “When we went through the process of eliminating four programs in May, we understood we needed to reconstitute the athletic department in terms of sports programs and to do so while facing significant budget restraints due to COVID and its uncertainties.
“We worked directly with a Title IX consultant on how best to address our compliance with Title IX
while also addressing our financial issues. Title IX is an ongoing commitment and it’s a priority for our university and athletics department,” he said.
Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson said, “ECU is fully committed to providing meaningful
opportunities to female athletes. And I am confident that the return of these two sports will help us
accomplish that goal. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented financial disruption to
operations across the university and exacerbated the already significant financial challenges faced not only by our athletics department but also the university. Gender equity is a priority to our institution, and we will continue to take all the necessary steps to be compliant with Title IX.”
On November 16, Arthur Bryant of Bailey Glasser’s office in Oakland, Calif., sent a letter to the interim chancellor seeking to have those teams reinstated under Title IX. The letter was addressed to Dr. Ron Mitchelson and laid out specifics on why the teams should be reinstated.
“This is a major victory for women athletes at ECU, Title IX, and all who care about gender equity and the law,” said Bryant. “The elimination of these women’s teams flagrantly violated Title IX. ECU should be praised for agreeing to reinstate the teams, develop a gender equity plan, and get into compliance with Title IX, but this settlement should put all schools on notice. If they violate Title IX, they will be held accountable.”
Members of the group Save ECU Swim and Dive Group released a statement Thursday on the news.
“As you may recall, the cuts were the subject of a potential gender discrimination lawsuit under Title IX. The firm representing several of the female athletes also released a statement, which you can see here.
“The alumni and supporters involved in the Save ECU Swim and Dive are overjoyed at this outcome, and we remain committed to seeing the men’s team restored as well to its rightful place in ECU Athletics.