NCAA Seeks Protection From Sex Discrimination Suits

The NCAA asked the U.S. Supreme Court for protection from liability under Title IX, arguing that the organization receives public funds only indirectly, and therefore should be exempt from claims of sex discrimination under the federal law.

Former college athlete Renee Smith sued the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) for sex discrimination under Title IX, charging that the organization waived eligibility requirements for men more often than it did for women.

Smith played volleyball while earning her undergraduate degree, but was banned from competing during graduate and law school due to an NCAA eligibility rule that prohibits graduate students from competing in athletics at colleges other than the athlete’s undergraduate institution. Smith played two seasons at St. Bonaventure and attempted to play at both Hoftstra University and the University of Pittsburgh, but was denied that opportunity.

Smith argues that the NCAA is liable under Title IX because universities receiving public funds pass on that money to the NCAA through dues payments. Counsel for the plaintiff further argues that the NCAA has discriminated against women by waiving eligibility requirements for male athletes more often than it has for female athletes. The NCAA has denied this charge and claims that the very opposite is true.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide the case by mid-summer.


AP - January 21, 1999

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