NCAA Evades Liability for Sex-Bias

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the National Collegiate Athletics Association’s (NCAA) receipt of federal funds through university and college dues does not make the association subject to Title IX. Title IX of the Education Acts of 1972 prohibits discrimination against girls and women in federally-funded education, including athletics programs.

In the Court’s decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, “At most, the association’s receipt of dues demonstrates that it indirectly benefits from the federal assistance afforded its members. This showing, without more, is insufficient to trigger Title IX coverage.”

The case in question was brought by former college athlete Renee Smith, who sued the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) for sex discrimination under Title IX, charging that the organization waived its eligibility requirements for men more often than it did for women. Smith was banned from university volleyball competition during graduate and law school due to an NCAA eligibility rule that prohibits graduate students from competing in athletics at colleges other than at the athlete’s undergraduate institution.

The ruling concerned only whether or not the indirect receipt of federal funds made NCAA liable and did not determine that the NCAA cannot be found liable for other reasons. Smith’s lawyer stated that the battle is not yet over and remains confident that a lower court will rule in Smith’s favor based on other arguments.

NCAA President Cedric Dempsey stated that he was pleased with the ruling and commented, “We have consistently said that the NCAA should be in compliance with Title IX on a voluntary basis and have worked to achieve compliance.”


AP - February 23, 1999

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