Women’s water polo pushes for varsity status

The head coach of the GW women’s water polo club is proposing the sport receive varsity status as the University examines gender equity issues within its athletics programs.

Women’s water polo, a club sport at GW for four years, could be the team to benefit from the athletics department’s push to ensure the University complies with federal Title IX legislation by spring of 1999, said Van Hoffman, the club’s coach.

“My understanding is that (the athletics department is) very interested in adding a women’s sport,” Hoffman said.

Title IX is the portion of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 that prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions receiving federal funds.

GW has just begun the process to ensure that it complies with the law, said Mary Jo Warner, senior associate athletics director. But she said the athletics department will have a written plan in place by next spring.

“The University is currently in the NCAA certification process, and we will be looking at gender equity here,” Warner said. “We are entertaining a number of different options, but we definitely need to make some changes (to achieve gender equity).”

To comply with Title IX a school must pass at least one section of a three-part test, said Janet Justus, the director of education outreach for the National Collegiate Athletics Association.

The first two prongs of the test examine whether the gender distribution of the student athletic population is roughly equal to the University’s overall distribution, and whether the school has historically expanded opportunities for women. The third prong examines whether the institution is attempting to meet the needs of women athletes, by elevating a club sport to varsity status, for example.

Justus said the federal government could withhold all funding to an educational institution if it is found out of compliance with all components of the Title IX test, although she said that has never been done. A common recourse for women’s sports is to sue the institution in the federal district court system, she added.

Warner said one of GW’s options for guaranteeing Title IX compliance is introducing at least one new varsity women’s sport.

In addition to women’s water polo, women’s softball, lacrosse and golf also will receive consideration as possible additions to GW’s sports program, Warner said.

“(Women’s water polo) has as good a chance as any other sport,” Warner said. “It’s been a club sport here for awhile and there’s interest, so that certainly helps.”

Hoffman, who is already the head coach of the men’s varsity water polo team, thinks women’s water polo is the perfect choice for GW’s next varsity sport.

“There are no facility additions that are necessary, and the equipment is already here,” Hoffman said. “As far as the outlay of money – caps and balls – that’s not a lot of money.”

“I think we’ve proved that we are a viable team and that we are dedicated to the sport,” said Katy Rickard, a senior who has been with the club team since it began. “I feel we would be good representatives of the University.”

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