The Hartford Courant and reporters Edmund Mahony and Dom Amore report:
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Quinnipiac University has discriminated against female student-athletes by denying them the same opportunities to participate in sports programs as men and ordered the school, within 60 days, to develop a plan to correct the situation. U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill said Quinnipiac violated a 1973 federal equal opportunity law, known commonly as Title IX, that prohibits gender discrimination in educational programs. The law has frequently been used to balance unequal spending on high school and college sports programs.
The complex ruling — which weighs the law, interscholastic collegiate athletic rules and Quinnipiac's athletic program – amounted to a victory for five female varsity volleyball players and their female coach who sued in March 2009 when the school dropped their sport. Among the coach and players, the decision provoked tears of joy and, immediately afterward, a flurry of preparation. The volleyball team had remained in place under the terms of an interim order issued by Underhill in May 2009.
Upon learning of the ruling, coach Robin Sparks alerted players through text messages. She said she expects to have 12 or 13 players when practice begins and, acting on the assumption that the team would prevail in the suit, she previously arranged a schedule of games.
'It was nice,' Sparks said, 'A lot of them called back in tears. We're excited to be doing what we love to do, which is get back into the gym together. I think the important lesson for any young woman in all of this is not to be afraid to stand up for what you believe in. There's a right way and a wrong way to do it, and we tried to do it the right way. I'm proud of these girls for the way they fought for this.'
Team member and sophomore Taylor Payne was coaching volleyball players in her hometown of Warwick, N.Y., when she received a text message from her coach. 'I never realized how much volleyball meant to me until someone said, 'You can't play,' Payne said. ' At first, when I was a freshman, it didn't feel like my fight, it was the players who had come before me. But once I became a member of the team, it was all of us fighting together. The volleyball team is like a family at Quinnipiac. I'm getting emotional. I've been in tears with everyone I've called.'"
There's been a great deal of speculation at the "blawgs" about how this case was going to come out. There's ssomething about athletics and court cases that go together like a ball and net. Law reviews articles and "notes" prompted by this decision are on the "gym floor" at law schools all around the country I assure you.