The University of St. Thomas has agreed to reinstate its women’s tennis program, which had been eliminated along with the men’s tennis program at the conclusion of the 2020-21 academic year.
The difficult decision to eliminate both programs came after an extensive review and evaluation of available athletics resources and peer institution sport portfolios as the University transitions its athletics program from NCAA Division III to Division I. The evaluation considered athletic scholarship support, coaching staff and other personnel, available facilities, competitiveness, the University’s long-term financial model and projections, and the fact that St. Thomas supported more sports at the Division III level than is typical for its peers in the Division I Summit League. After this evaluation, St. Thomas determined it was unable to adequately provide the conditions necessary to sustain an outstanding student-athlete experience at the Division I level for participants in the tennis programs.
Shortly after last month’s announcement that the programs would be eliminated, the University was threatened with a Title IX lawsuit by members of the women’s tennis team, who argued that Title IX prohibited the University from eliminating a women’s team. St. Thomas was compliant with Title IX as a Division III athletics program and will remain compliant as it transitions to Division I. The University recognizes, however, that fighting a Title IX lawsuit would be extremely costly and time-consuming. St. Thomas would rather invest its resources in student initiatives, including the women’s tennis program. Therefore, while the reasons for eliminating the programs remain sound, St. Thomas agreed to reinstate the women’s team. The men’s program will not be reinstated.
St. Thomas has an obligation to responsibly steward its resources. At the same time, it is committed to providing all student athletes with an outstanding experience. With this reinstatement, the University will be dedicated to having the women’s tennis team thrive. St. Thomas will determine how best to provide an outstanding experience for the women’s tennis players, including exploration of support from community partners, boosters and donors as part of this process.
To affirm its commitment to providing an equitable experience for all athletes as the University transitions to Division I, St. Thomas will conduct a gender equity review this year. The University will develop and adopt, no later than March 15, 2022, a gender equity plan to demonstrate that all aspects of its intercollegiate athletic programs will remain in compliance with Title IX during future years.