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COOK v. COLGATE UNIV.

September 28, 1992

JENNIFER BALDWIN COOK, MELISSA EHLERS, CHRISTINE PRICE THAYER JAQUES, JULIE WOLFF and MICHAEL FITZGERALD, Plaintiffs,
v.
COLGATE UNIVERSITY, Defendant.


HURD


The opinion of the court was delivered by: DAVID N. HURD

DAVID N. HURD United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

 I. Introduction.

 The plaintiffs are all female (Michael Fitzgerald, student coach of the women's club ice hockey team, withdrew from this action), and former students at the defendant Colgate University ("Colgate"), located in Hamilton, New York. They are also former members of the Colgate women's club ice hockey team.

 The complaint was filed on April 10, 1990, and Colgate filed an answer on June 18, 1990. In the complaint, the plaintiffs allege that Colgate's 1988 decision to maintain women's ice hockey as a club sport, violated Title IX, 20 U.S.C. 1681 et seq., as amended by the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, the regulations of the Department of Education, 34 C.F.R. Chapter 1, subpart D, § 106.1 and § 106.41, and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Colgate denied the material allegations in the complaint.

 The court conducted a three day nonjury trial on March 31, April 1 and 2, 1992, in Utica, New York. The parties filed post-trial proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. This Memorandum-Decision and Order constitutes the court's findings of fact and conclusions of law.

 II.Background.

 Until 1970, Colgate was an all male school. In that year, women students were admitted for the first time. Enrollment of women has increased steadily until the present day, when it is almost fifty per cent (50%). In 1990/91, the total enrollment was 2,690, with 1,450 men (53%), and 1,240 women (47%).

 Colgate has had a strong competitive men's varsity ice hockey team for many years. Together with men's football and men's basketball, it is an "emphasized" sport, which means it receives additional financial aid and other support. In 1990, women's basketball also became an "emphasized" sport. The men's varsity ice hockey team is a member of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) and competes in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament. It has always been a leading team in the Conference, and has challenged for the Division I NCAA championship in recent years.

 In addition to its twenty-three varsity teams, Colgate also sponsors between eighteen to twenty club teams. Club teams are somewhat informal, principally run by students, and range from ultimate frisbee to rugby. It is obvious that a varsity team has much greater status, both within and without the university community, than a club team. A varsity team is an "official" representative of the university with full-time coaches, designated schedules, rules, and regulations. A varsity team is provided equipment, practice facilities, and travel accommodations. A club team is much more "unofficial", with more informal schedules, practices, and competition. Its equipment, facilities, and travel are of a more "make shift" nature.

 In 1979, 1983, 1986, and 1988, the women's club ice hockey team applied for varsity status. In order for a sport to attain varsity status at Colgate, an application must be made to the Committee on Athletics which consists of faculty and student members, with the Director of Athletics as a nonvoting advisory member. If an application for varsity status is approved by the committee, and with the consent of both the Director of Athletics and the Dean of the Facility, the proposal is then presented to the President for final approval. If an application is rejected by the committee, the applicants may reapply in two years.

 The women's ice hockey applications were rejected in all four years. In 1988, members of the women's ice hockey team presented a detailed twenty-nine page proposal. Plaintiffs' Exhibit "15". On November 7, 1988, plaintiff Cook, with two other hockey players, made an oral presentation to the committee, followed by some questions and answers. After a discussion by the committee, a vote was postponed until the next meeting. On November 14, 1988, the committee unanimously voted to deny the application and elected to maintain women's ice hockey as a club rather than a varsity sport. The plaintiffs were notified in writing regarding the committee's decision. Plaintiffs' Exhibit "4". The committee gave the same four reasons for the rejection as it had given in both 1983 and 1986:

 (1) Women's ice hockey is rarely played on the secondary level;

 (2) Championships are not sponsored by the NCAA at any intercollegiate level;

 (3) The game is only played at approximately fifteen colleges ...


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