Quinnipiac University has agreed to maintain its women’s volleyball team and expand athletic opportunities for its female students as part of a proposed settlement to end a lengthy court battle regarding the school’s lack of Title IX compliance.

The question of Quinnipiac’s Title IX compliance initially arose in 2009, when five members of the school’s women’s volleyball team and their coach sued the university and successfully enjoined a plan to eliminate the team. At the time, U.S. District Court Judge Stefan Underhill found a lack of Title IX compliance and ruled the university was “not providing genuine athletic participation opportunities in substantial proportionality to the gender composition of its full-time undergraduate enrollment.”

Following a trial, Judge Underhill confirmed his preliminary findings with regard to the injunction in a 95-page opinion. In the opinion, the judge announced the school violated Title IX by shortchanging female students of athletic opportunities. The school argued that members of the cheer team should be counted as athletes for purposes of Title IX compliance. Judge Underhill disagreed. He concluded, “Competitive cheer may, sometime in the future, qualify as a sport under Title IX. Today, however, the activity is still too underdeveloped and disorganized to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic participation.” In August 2012, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the University’s appellate argument that the 30-member competitive cheerleading squad should be included in the total number of student athletes.

Last month, Judge Underhill once again has rejected Quinnipiac’s arguments for lifting the injunction that had prevented the elimination of the women’s volleyball team. The judge ruled that Quinnipiac’s changes to its athletics program in response to his previous order were insufficient to bring the school into full compliance with the requirements of Title IX. He acknowledged the school had made substantial progress toward Title IX compliance, but found the mere addition of women’s varsity golf and rugby teams was inadequate to satisfy the school’s requirement for statistical compliance with Title IX. Judge Underhill concluded the university could renew its efforts to lift the injunction in the future.

The proposed settlement, which is subject to court approval, apparently will end Quinnipiac’s persistent effort to challenge Judge Underhill and lift the injunction. As part of the settlement, the school has agreed to maintain the women’s volleyball team and provide more scholarships and opportunities for Quinnipiac’s female athletes. In addition, the school has agreed to invest at least $5 million to upgrade facilities used by its varsity women’s teams, including locker rooms. 

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Photo of Gregg E. Clifton Gregg E. Clifton

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in…

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in the collegiate and professional sports world. He has advised numerous professional franchises on general labor and employment issues, including Title III ADA regulatory compliance and wage and hour issues. He serves as lead counsel for several Major League Baseball teams in their salary arbitration matters and has represented NCAA and NAIA collegiate clients regarding rules compliance, investigatory matters and in disciplinary hearings. In addition, he has handled Title IX investigations and compliance issues for NCAA and NAIA member institutions. Mr. Clifton has also worked extensively in the area of agent regulation and enforcement in professional and college sports and regularly provides counsel on issues relating to NCAA and NAIA amateurism issues and athlete eligibility questions. He has also served as an expert witness in matters involving sports agents’ work and responsibilities, as well as athlete compensation issues.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, he spent six years as Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Team Sports for Gaylord Sports Management. He also served as President of the Athlete and Entertainment Division for famed sports attorney Bob Woolf’s firm, Woolf Associates, in Boston.

Mr. Clifton began his career as an Associate at Jackson Lewis where he focused his practice on traditional labor law. He continues to counsel clients in the areas of collective bargaining negotiations, representation cases, arbitrations and National Labor Relations Board matters.

Mr. Clifton frequently serves as an expert speaker to law schools, including Harvard University, Boston College, Hofstra University and Arizona State University, and bar associations regarding sports law issues, including agent regulation and salary arbitration. He is also often cited as an expert source in national news media for his commentary and opinion on legal issues in sports.