Members of La Salle University’s volleyball team have retained an attorney experienced in Title IX cases, according to a letter from the attorney sent by email Friday to La Salle’s president threatening a class-action lawsuit due to what he claimed were Title IX violations as a result of women’s sports teams being included in cuts announced last year.

Last September, La Salle announced it was cutting seven sports at the end of the academic year, with 130 current students being impacted by the cuts.

Sports being cut initially were to include four men’s programs and three women’s programs. Earlier this month, the school announced it would be reinstating one of the men’s programs, swimming and diving, after a fundraising drive by alumni of the program.

The letter written Friday, shared with the Inquirer, was sent by Arthur Bryant of Bailey & Glasser LLP to La Salle president Colleen Hanycz, claiming La Salle is “depriving women athletes and potential athletes of equal participation opportunities and treatment in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.”

It further added, “Please respond to this letter as soon as possible and, in any event, no later than Thursday, May 27, 2021.”

The school acknowledged the letter was received. A statement was provided Friday by school spokesman Christopher Vito: “Title IX was a critical factor in the University’s decision in September and the reinstatement of men’s swimming and diving in May. This is the first notice we have received from a standpoint of perceived noncompliance with Title IX. Beyond that, we do not comment on potential or ongoing litigation.”

Bryant, who began his legal career in Philadelphia but now works in Oakland, Calif., was part of the legal team that won a Title IX settlement against Temple in the 1980s and a suit filed against Brown in 1991 that prevailed in the courts.

In a phone interview, he said he couldn’t say how many members of the volleyball team he represented, noting that when team members transfer to another school seeking an opportunity to play, “only the women who are left are in position to sue.” He said he was contacted “a day or two after they reinstated the men’s swimming and diving team.”

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His letter stated that “the elimination of the women’s volleyball, softball, and tennis teams constitutes illegal sex discrimination in violation of Title IX.”

Title IX prohibits educational institutions receiving federal funds from eliminating women’s teams for which interest, ability, and competition are available, Bryant said in the letter, “unless ‘intercollegiate level participation opportunities for male and female students are provided in numbers substantially proportionate to their respective enrollments.”

“La Salle fails this test,” Bryant wrote in the letter, noting that in the most recent publicly available data, La Salle’s undergraduate population was 64% women in 2019–20 while the school’s intercollegiate varsity athletic team rosters that year had 237 men and 276 women, or 53.8% women -- “creating a 10.2% gap between the women’s undergraduate enrollment rate and their intercollegiate athletic participation rate.”

Given those previous numbers, Bryant said in the letter, La Salle needed to add opportunities for 145 women to its intercollegiate athletic program to reach gender equity.

Bryant told the Inquirer: “It’s not complicated, it’s real simple. The programs are separate, they have to be equal. You can’t discriminate against women to make money, to avoid losing money, or because of COVID.”

Bryant has been involved in recent legal talks involving planned sports cuts at William and Mary, East Carolina, Dartmouth, and Clemson, each school ultimately deciding to restore the women’s sports that had been designated to be cut, he noted. Fresno State declined to go that route and a suit brought by members of the women’s lacrosse team is currently in litigation, Bryant representing the players. Last month, a judge declined to issue a preliminary injunction restoring the sport while the case is being decided.

In an interview last September when La Salle’s cuts were initially announced, athletic director Brian Baptiste said COVID-19 pandemic financial issues did “accelerate the process,” but suggested that it only played a part in the cuts.

“This was really about how do we create a better experience, how do we align with our peers?” Baptiste said, adding that this was not a cost-cutting measure, that resources saved would be “reinvested” in other sports.

La Salle’s baseball program, which just set a season record for victories, also has been attempting to save itself from being cut by fundraising. The school said this month in a statement that La Salle’s board of trustees considered that matter closed.

As a result of reinstating the one men’s sport, Bryant said in Friday’s letter, “the school’s intercollegiate athletic participation will be approximately 172 men and 236 women, or 57.84% women—creating a 6.16% participation gap. Therefore, with the announced reinstatement of the men’s team, La Salle now needs to add approximately 70 women to reach gender equity under Title IX. This participation gap is large enough that La Salle could reinstate all three of the eliminated women’s teams, which offer opportunities for approximately 40 women combined.”

» READ MORE: La Salle announced last September it was cutting some men's and women's sports programs

Bryant noted in the letter, “I would like to meet with you and/or the school’s lawyers and discuss the relevant facts and the law, as well as the likely outcome if a lawsuit is filed. It is my hope that, considering these factors, La Salle will agree to reinstate the women’s volleyball, softball, and tennis teams and come into compliance with Title IX to avoid the need for a lawsuit.”