On Friday, 32 members of the University of Oregon’s women’s beach volleyball and rowing teams filed a class action lawsuit in federal court, alleging that the university has been depriving female athletes of equal treatment and benefits in violation of Title IX. The lawsuit claims that the university provides significantly better resources and support to its male football team compared to its female athletes.
The complaint, which spans over 100 pages, outlines numerous disparities between the treatment of male and female athletes at the university. It highlights the football team’s access to state-of-the-art facilities, personalized gear, chartered flights, and luxurious amenities, including their own theater with Ferrari leather seats. In contrast, the suit claims that the beach volleyball team lacks adequate facilities and equipment, receives no athletic scholarships, and faces minimal publicity and recognition. The rowing team, despite existing for 20 years, is relegated to a club sport and denied the opportunity to compete in PAC-12 championships.
According to the lawsuit, the university allocates only 25% of its athletic budget to women athletes, despite women comprising 49% of varsity athletes at Oregon. The beach volleyball team is the only varsity team in the PAC-12 conference that receives no athletic financial aid. The plaintiffs argue that Oregon fails to provide equal opportunities for women athletes and denies them the same level of support and resources as their male counterparts.
The attorneys representing the athletes argue that the university has had ample time to address these issues, citing a front-page article in The Oregonian three months ago that exposed systemic equality problems within the beach volleyball team. They assert that Title IX, which has been in place for over 50 years, requires compliance from institutions like Oregon.
The lawsuit challenges the notion that schools can prioritize revenue-generating sports, like football and basketball, by arguing that Title IX does not differentiate between revenue and non-revenue sports when it comes to gender equity. The attorneys contend that schools cannot use budgetary constraints as an excuse to violate Title IX and must provide equal treatment and opportunities for female athletes.
In response to the lawsuit, the University of Oregon stated that it is committed to providing a positive experience for all student-athletes, including its female athletes. They claim to provide academic support, tutoring, medical care, mental health support, and nutrition and sports training to all student-athletes. The university also mentioned plans to increase scholarships for beach volleyball and build a dedicated facility on campus.
The outcome of this lawsuit could have significant implications for female athletes and the enforcement of Title IX. It highlights the ongoing struggle for gender equity within college athletics and the need for universities to address disparities in resources and opportunities for female athletes.