A group of male athletes sued Miami University on Thursday, claiming reverse discrimination resulted from a federal law designed to equalize the money colleges spend on men's and women's sports.
The former Miami wrestlers and tennis and soccer players contend that by eliminating their teams to satisfy NCAA gender quotas, the university violated sex discrimination provisions of Title IX, the federal program designed to increase the number of women playing sports.
"Prohibiting men from participating in athletics simply because they are men is sex discrimination, and that violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution as well as the federal civil rights statute, Title IX," said Curt Levey, spokesman for the Washington-based Center for Individual Rights.
The center is a nonprofit group that opposes affirmative action and often argues reverse discrimination cases. It is representing the athletes without charge.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court, accuses Miami University, its president, trustees and athletic director of civil rights violations. It asks the court to order Miami to reinstate the men's sports and to pay team members unspecified damages for "the losses they've suffered, shattered dreams and costs such as transferring to other universities," Levey said.
Plaintiffs are the Miami wrestling, soccer and tennis teams, and nine athletes.
One athlete, Mario Contardi of Cincinnati, said he had several offers to play collegiate tennis but chose Miami, only to have to transfer to Virginia when the Miami program was eliminated.
"I want to correct an injustice that has been done," Contardi said.
His father, Steve, runs tennis clubs in Cincinnati and in Lexington, Ky., and said he had hoped to have two children playing tennis for Miami at the same time. His daughter is on Miami's women's team.
"We've witnessed a lot of crushed dreams, a lot of unfulfilled commitments by the university," Steve Contardi said.
Miami trustees voted in April to eliminate men's soccer, tennis and wrestling but allowed golf to continue as a varsity sport because of money promised by supporters and a pledge to continue fund raising through annual golf tournaments. Wrestling, tennis and soccer could have stayed, too, if backers of those sports had been able to raise $13 million.
The administration said Miami could not remain competitive in 22 sports on a budget appropriated for 17 to 18 sports and still meet Title IX requirements of equity between men's and women's programs. University president James Garland said Miami had only two choices cut the amount of money spent on men's sports or spend more money on women's sports and had no more money for sports.
University spokesman Rich Little declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said Miami determined that the only way it could comply with Title IX requirements was to drop the three men's programsThere was no way Miami could comply under the other two criteria: adding more women's sports or showing it already had met the needs of its women students.
"We studied this for two years," Little said. "We had a legal analysis, financial analysis three committees looked at it and a nationally known consultant who works on Title IX compliance looked at it. Every one of them said the same things."
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