Title IX in College Athletics

Jun. 2, 2020 By NMGL

Title IX in College Athletics

Title IX of the federal Civil Rights Act is a law that bans discrimination on the basis of sex and requires that women and men be provided equal opportunities to participate in collegiate sports. Title IX also requires scholarship dollars for men and women to be proportional to their participation in sports and mandates equal treatment in facilities, equipment, scheduling, and recruitment, among other things. Title IX does not require schools to offer identical sports but only an equal opportunity to play.

Title IX has also been used by alleged victims of sexual misconduct to seek remedies against colleges that don’t take enough action against persons accused of the misconduct.  New Title IX regulations have provided more due process protections to students accused of sexual misconduct and imposed a higher definition of what constitutes sexual harassment—only unwelcome conduct determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the school’s educational program or activity.

Title IX and College Sports (NCAA) Rules and Regulations Updates

Under the new regulations, coaches and athletic trainers are not obligated under Title IX to report suspected incidents to the Title IX coordinator. Previously, most schools mandated that coaches and athletic staff were obligated to report all suspected Title IX violations directly to the Title IX coordinator. The reason for the change is that the federal Department of Education believes this respects the autonomy of students to choose whether they want to tell a school employee for the purpose of making a Title IX report or for another reason, such as “receiving emotional support without desiring to ‘officially’ report.”

However, a new NCAA policy effective beginning in the 2021-2022 school year requires athletes themselves to annually disclose acts of violence that resulted in an investigation, discipline through a Title IX proceeding, or criminal conviction. This requirement applies to both new recruits and transfer students. Note that students must report even investigations that did not result in convictions. 

Per the NCAA, schools must adopt written policies directing staff to gather that information from the previous institutions of recruits and transfer athletes.  Even if not reported by a student, schools are expressly allowed by federal law to report a student’s disciplinary history to colleges where the student desires to play or transfer.

In college athletics, activists have pushed schools to adopt even harsher rules that would deny athletic scholarships and participation to any student that has been accused of a sexual misconduct violation, even if ultimately found to be not liable. 

A number of colleges have gone a step further and adopted the so-called “Tracy Rule.” This rule prohibits student athletes from practicing, participating in sports, or receiving financial aid if they have any incidents or history of actual or even accused misconduct, whether sexual assault, violence, or otherwise. 

A finding of liability, even if later overturned, can have a devastating effect on an athletic career. In one case at Michigan State University, a student athlete was cleared of a Title IX claim while an undergraduate, only to have the result reversed in a reinvestigation initiated by the accuser when the athlete was a part-time graduate student. He never even received notice of the reinvestigation.

As a result, he was immediately cut by the NFL’s Houston Texans from its roster and he remains out of employment with any NFL team. While the athlete settled with Michigan State which admitted it was wrong, the conviction cost him his career as a professional athlete. The Tracy Rule would require a similar result for college athletes.

If you or your child are a student who desires to participate in college athletics or seek financial aid for doing so, you need to be aware of these initiatives and be proactive if you have ever been accused of serious wrongdoing at any school, or otherwise.

To do so, it is critical that you hire a Title IX lawyer if you are now or ever have been accused of sexual or other misconduct. A Title IX lawyer is an expert in defending a complaint or taking action to overturn a finding of liability and erasing any charge or finding from a school transcript.

Contact Us

Our attorneys are Title IX defense specialists and we have helped hundreds of accused students across the country who have been treated unfairly by their schools. We are parents too. Call us at 212-736-4500 or contact us as soon as a complaint is filed and we will be there aggressively protecting your rights, ensuring a fundamentally fair process, or establishing the deficiencies that will lead a court to reverse the school’s adverse findings. There is no fee for a private consultation.

Due to the unique nature of every individual situation, this blog does not constitute the giving of legal advice.