LSU details Title IX settlement

Attorneys for LSU and five female former student athletes have reached a settlement in the university's Title IX lawsuit regarding gender equity in the LSU Athletic Department. Terms of the settlement include LSU's continued public support of women's athletics and a monetary payment to the plaintiffs and their attorneys.

LSU will demonstrate its support of women's athletics by providing equity in scholarships; athletic facilities and equipment; coaching, medical and support staffs; marketing and publicity opportunities; and travel arrangements. The university will also work to accommodate the interests and abilities of its female student athletes.

The university will pay $37,500 each to four of the five plaintiffs. One of the plaintiffs declined a monetary payment. LSU will also pay a total of just over $1 million to the two law firms representing the plaintiffs. LSU's attorneys said this payment is a compromise based on a mandate by the federal court after a trial of the case in 1996.

The funds paid to the plaintiffs and their attorneys will not come out of the university or athletic department's budgets, LSU's attorneys said, but will be paid by LSU's insurance, which is administered through the Louisiana Office of Risk Management.

The settlement requires the plaintiffs to dismiss the lawsuit and any future claims against LSU related to this case. However, the plaintiffs reserve the right to seek judicial enforcement of LSU's commitment to women's athletics, if necessary, and LSU reserves the right to contest such attempts if the university deems them unwarranted.

The settlement also states that this agreement is a compromise between LSU and the plaintiffs, and that it should not be construed as an admission of liability on the part of the university. The settlement reads that "LSU denies liability to the plaintiffs and enters into this compromise agreement solely for the purpose of avoiding further litigation."

The suit was originally filed in 1994 by three female soccer players and two female softball players who claimed the university dragged its feet in establishing those two sports at the varsity level and did not provide equal treatment to male and female athletes. To date, the case has gone before U.S. District Court and the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

During that time, the LSU Athletic Department submitted a plan for compliance with Title IX that was adopted by the federal court in 1997. At that time, the federal court recognized that the university's plan "places LSU on the road to compliance with those provisions of Title IX which this court found it to have violated." The court further recognized the reality that "LSU's commitment to the promotion and the support of its fastpitch softball and soccer teams for women is meaningful and a long-term one."

Also during the past five years, the LSU Athletic Department established a gender-equity committee to survey female student athletes and ensure that their interests and abilities in athletics are being met. The university also hired a senior women's administrator to oversee the progress and direction of women's athletics at LSU.

"We are pleased that the university and the plaintiffs were able to find some common ground in this case and settle the suit in an amicable fashion," LSU Chancellor Mark Emmert said. "The university has made significant strides in supporting women's athletics during the past decade, and everyone connected to LSU is proud of the successes of all the university's sports, both men's and women's," he said.

LSU Athletic Director Skip Bertman agreed. "I'm very comfortable with the status of our entire athletic program, including our women's sports programs," Bertman said. "We have one of the top overall women's sports programs in the country with some of the finest coaches and student-athletes around. I'm glad that we can now put this lawsuit behind us and move forward as we continue to achieve excellence both in the classroom and on the playing field for all of our athletic teams at LSU."

LSU officials point to the success of some women's sports, such as the softball, basketball and track and field programs, as proof of LSU's support of women's athletics. Since its creation in 1997, the softball program has won five Southeastern Conference Western Division titles, three regular-season SEC overall championships, two SEC Tournament titles and this year is coming off a third-place finish in the NCAA College World Series in Oklahoma City. The softball team is being led by LSU All-American pitcher Britni Sneed, who was named a member of Team USA.

The women's basketball team has also excelled over the years, making multiple appearances in the NCAA Tournament and twice advancing to the Elite Eight. The team has appeared in the NCAA Tournament in each of the past four years.

The LSU women's track and field team has won 12 outdoor and eight indoor national championships since 1987. The LSU women's golf team has advanced to the NCAA championships in five of the past six years, finishing no worse than 12th each time. The team is currently being led by senior Meredith Duncan, the U.S. Amateur Champion.

Other women's programs, including soccer, tennis and swimming and diving, are also enjoying competitive success as a result of the support of the university and athletic department.

"The settlement of the Title IX case will enable the university's athletic department and women's sports to move forward without the uncertainties of continued litigation," said attorney David Bienvenu of the law firm Taylor, Porter, Brooks & Phillips, which represents LSU. "The university's commitment to the competitive success of these varsity sports, and all varsity sports at LSU, is resolute. Gender equity will continue to be a guiding principle embodied and enforced within the administration of LSU's athletic program," he said.

 


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