Competitive cheerleading? Not a sport.

by Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP

[authors: Bradford N. Paul and Seth Reagan]

Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, colleges receiving federal funding must afford equal participation opportunities in varsity sports to male and female athletes.  One way schools demonstrate their compliance is by showing that the number of varsity opportunities for men and women are "substantially proportionate to their respective enrollments."  For example, if a student body population is 60% male and 40% female, the total number of student-athlete positions at the school should mirror these percentages.  The Department of Education has clarified that for an athletic participation opportunity to be counted for Title IX, it must be in the context of a "sport."

Earlier this year, Quinnipiac University (in Connecticut) argued to the Second Circuit that a district court had erred in finding that the university violated Title IX by eliminating its women's volleyball team.  Quinnipiac had two main arguments: (1) that the district court should have considered the 30 roster positions on its competitive cheerleading team when calculating the school's total percentage of female athletic opportunities, and (2) that the district court should have counted all positions on the women's cross-country, indoor track, and outdoor track teams, even though some of the same athletes filled positions on all three teams.

The Second Circuit disagreed regarding the competitive cheerleading team.  Although competitive cheerleading is an athletic endeavor, Quinnipiac cheerleading could not be considered a varsity sport.  Several factors supported this conclusion: (1) Quinnipiac had not conducted any off-campus recruitment for the cheerleading team; (2) no uniform set of rules applied to competitive cheerleading throughout the regular season; (3) the cheerleading team's opponents consisted of "a motley assortment of competitors," including collegiate club teams and all-star teams unaffiliated with any academic institution; (4) the competitive cheerleading "post-season" was not based on any ranking, seeding, or playoff system leading to a championship, but rather consisted of a single open invitational; and (5) the competitive cheerleading championship tournament incorporated a new rule that had not been applied in any of the regular season competitions.  Thus, the appellate court agreed with the district court that "Quinnipiac's competitive cheerleading team did not compete in circumstances indicative of varsity sports" and should therefore not be counted for Title IX purposes.

With respect to the women's cross-country athletes participating on multiple teams, the court agreed that "an athlete who participates in more than one sport [may] be counted as a participant in each sport in which he or she participates."  However, Qunnipiac's practice of requiring its women's cross-country athletes to join the indoor and outdoor track teams, for purposes of allowing the cross-country athletes to train year-round, was a unique situation.  The court concluded that the athletes who participated in at least half of the track competitions could be counted, whereas those who simply practiced with the team or participated in only one competition could not be counted as legitimate participants.  Thus, five positions on the women's indoor track team and six positions on the women's outdoor track team could not be counted, because they were filled by noncompeting athletes who had been injured or red-shirted.

Ultimately, the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, and Quinnipiac was enjoined "from continuing to discriminate against female students by failing to provide them with equal athletic participation opportunities."  This decision cautions schools against the double-counting of athletes who are required to join multiple sports teams, and provides guidance on determining what qualifies as a "sport" for purposes of Title IX compliance.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.