Federal court rules against motion to restore UAlbany women’s tennis team


A federal judged ruled against a motion that would have brought women’s tennis back to the UAlbany campus in the ongoing lawsuit regarding the cancellation of the women’s tennis program in March 2016.

The motion, filed in November, sought a temporary injunction that would have brought the immediate reinstatement of women’s tennis as a varsity sport at UAlbany while a case brought by four former UAlbany women’s tennis players, Chassidy King, Chae Bean Kang, Isidora Pejovic and Alba Sala Huerta, and their former coach, Gordon Graham, against UAlbany and athletic director Mark Benson, went through the federal court system.

Ultimately, the court found that the plaintiffs had waited 18 months to file their motion, which showed that they would not suffer irreparable harm, and that a restoration of the tennis team would cause the University significant hardship, as the funds for women’s tennis had been reallocated to other programs within the UAlbany athletics department.

“More than 18 months passed between the time the Defendants announced cancellation of
the tennis program at SUNY Albany and the time that Defendants filed their cause of
action in this Court. Plaintiffs let an entire tennis season pass between the March 23,
2016 termination of the program and filing their suit. Players, including at least one who is
a party to this suit, have graduated or left campus,” wrote Judge Thomas J. McAvoy in an order entered Tuesday.

“Today, the district court denied our motion for a preliminary injunction to reinstate the women’s tennis team during the remainder of the trial,” said Bernays T. Barclay, the attorney for the former women’s tennis players and Gordon Graham. “While we are naturally disappointed, we remain committed to our clients and their cause. It is still early in this process and we are confident that the court will soon see that our clients are victims of SUNY Albany’s ongoing practice of discrimination.”

The case, filed Sept. 29 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, seeks the restoration of the women’s tennis program; to force the University into compliance with Title IX — the 1972 federal law that prohibits discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funding — regarding athletic opportunities for women within one year; plus attorney fees and monetary damages for Graham and the four former tennis players. The suit also asks the court to appoint a special master to oversee UAlbany’s compliance with Title IX and any orders the court might issue.

“The University at Albany Athletic Department is aware of the court’s decision and remains fully committed to providing all student-athletes opportunities to excel academically and athletically in accordance with Title IX,” said a statement from UAlbany emailed to the Times Union. “We are working diligently with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to ensure full compliance with both the spirit and letter of this important law.”

A 12-page report of an investigation conducted by the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, issued in August, found that the UAlbany athletic department had not provided equal participation opportunities to male and female athletes over the previous three academic years. The university and the OCR entered into a resolution agreement that laid out a road map for how the school will try to improve opportunities for female athletes over the next three years.

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