Florida State Lacrosse Club Takes a Stand for Title IX

Flordia State University athletic department had a busy Wednesday two weeks ago. The week’s biggest headline was the university’s Board of Trustees using their meeting to go on the offensive and threaten to leave the ACC over the conference’s media rights deal.

The group led by President Richard McCullough and a host of prominent trustees, made the case that the ACC media rights deal leaves the schools at a competitive disadvantage. With radical changes to the existing media rights deal, the university could leave the ACC for a new one.

While that was enough to shake up the new cycle, the athletic department received a letter from the university’s Women’s Lacrosse Club program in consultation with Title IX attorney Arthur Bryant. The letter requested that the university elevate the team from club to varsity. Bryant laid out the reasons for the letter to USA Today.

“I and my co-counsel have been retained by members of the women’s club lacrosse team at Florida State University (‘FSU’) because the school has refused to upgrade the team to varsity status in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (‘Title IX’).

I hope we can resolve this dispute without litigation, but, if not, we will pursue a sex discrimination class action against FSU for violating Title IX by depriving its female students and potential students of equal opportunities to participate in varsity intercollegiate athletics.”

Taking a Stand

Talking about which teams make sense to go D1 makes for interesting Twitter and Threads (do people actually use Threads?) debates. The Seminole’s request goes deeper than just a conversation or a club team hoping to take the next step. It’s about standing up for what is right. In May 2022, USA Today published a report Title IX: Falling Short at 50 about the failings of some schools and universities to follow through with the requirements set forth by the historic 1972 legislation. Title IX is a federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in education programs and activities, including sports. It ensures equal opportunities for both men and women in educational institutions receiving federal funding.

The report found that Florida State had roughly 100 fewer female student-athletes than its male counterparts. Outgoing club president and former player Sophia Villalonga shared how the report impacted her and her teammates. “(The report) opened our eyes to the major flaws that are happening right now. And again, not only in our school but many schools across the country where the gap is just, unfortunately, too large to be okay.” While chatting with USA Today, the idea was floated about transitioning the team to become a varsity sport.

Villalonga shared how she and her teammates gathered the necessary paperwork, documentation, and letters of support from a handful of D1 coaches to present to the university to help make their case for moving to a varsity sport. Unfortunately, for Villalonga and her teammates, the university responded that they were not looking to add any additional varsity teams at the present time.

Flordia State’s Request

Villalonga wrapped up our interview with a short message and pitched to the Florida State athletic department why the women’s lacrosse team should become its next Varsity sport.

“I want to emphasize that I love FSU. I love it so much. I decided to do my grad program here after graduating from undergrad. I love the team. I’ve always loved being on the club team. It shaped my whole experience here. This has nothing to do with malice towards the school or anything like that. I still love the school and want to push for that extra step of equality. It’s more like fighting for the girls, not necessarily against the school.”

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Craig McMichael

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