A threatened lawsuit by the baseball team at California State University, Fresno was averted today in a meeting between university President John Welty, California State University General Counsel Christine Helwick and the baseball team’s attorney, Thomas Sharpe.
Last week Sharpe, representing Bulldogs baseball coach Bob Bennett and his players, said he was contemplating filing a federal lawsuit against the university, alleging that the 30-player roster limit on baseball is discriminatory and violates the federal gender-equity law known as Title IX.
But Welty and Sharpe said that the issues were fully addressed at today’s meeting, including the university’s need to set roster targets as well as the procedure coaches may follow to request exceptions to those targets. They agreed on three main points:
First, that coaches themselves always have the right to cut players based on an assessment of ability.
Second, that the university’s athletic director and his staff have the responsibility to balance the athletic budget and ensure gender equity, and that the university will continue to set participation targets for each sport to meet the legal gender-equity requirements of Title IX.
And third, that coaches may request in writing that the athletic director make individual exceptions to the roster targets, based on circumstances that arise in a given year.
Baseball coach Bob Bennett is expected to request exceptions to his roster limit for this season, and Welty said Athletic Director Al Bohl will act on that request within 48 hours.
Welty said after the meeting, “We made it clear that this university will comply fully. with the gender-equity requirements of Title IX. But we also acknowledged that we have to do it with some common sense and that sometimes there’s a good reason to make exceptions to planned numbers.”
Sharpe said that certain misconceptions were corrected. Sharpe added that it appears the university is acting in good faith, and he agreed that the lawsuit has been averted.
Fresno State’s athletics program is operating under a corrective action plan agreed to with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and also under a consent decree resulting from a 1993 lawsuit by the California National Organization for Women. Both require that the university achieve a gender balance in athletics participation and expenditures that is comparable to the ratio of male and female students enrolled on campus.
Preliminary figures show that Fresno State will reach full compliance this year with the standards for female athletic participation and for expenditures on women’s sports. The figures will become final in late spring.