The effort to save women's volleyball at Cal State Fullerton scored a victory Tuesday when a Superior Court judge indicated that he will grant a preliminary injunction blocking the university's move to drop the sport.
"This is a victory not only for women on the volleyball team but for all the girls in California who play high school volleyball and aspire to compete in college," said Kirk Boyd, attorney for the team.
Meanwhile, a Fullerton spokesman confirmed that the U.S. Education Department's Office of Civil Rights is investigating Titan athletics for possible violations of a federal law that requires male and female students to be treated equally in all areas of education.
The university's Jan. 28 announcement that it plans to drop volleyball outraged advocates of women's sports and led to the lawsuit, brought by team members and Coach Jim Huffman, which alleges that the move violates state and federal anti-discrimination laws.
On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Floyd H. Schenk said in a conference call with attorneys for both sides that he is prepared to rule against the university and will sign the injunction Friday.
Barring a settlement, team attorneys will seek a permanent injunction, with a hearing before Schenk to take place in 60 to 90 days.
"From our point of view, this proves we'll win the permanent injunction on the merits of the case," Boyd said.
But it was not necessarily a victory for Huffman. The original request for the injunction asked that the university be restrained from eliminating the coaching staff. Boyd said Schenk amended the clause to read that "the university shall provide appropriate coaching"--but did not specify who that would be.
Huffman had kept his job under a temporary restraining order issued Feb. 3.
"That means they have the right to terminate me, but they can't do it before Friday," said Huffman, whose Fullerton teams had a 25-80 win-loss record in his three seasons as coach. "I'm still fired up about the decision. It's still good news. What happens to me, we'll wait and see."
Judging from the comments of university attorney Nancy Carlin, it does not appear that Huffman has much chance of remaining, should the team return next fall.
"Our reaction is mixed," Carlin said. "We're very pleased with the portion that indicates Huffman is a temporary employee and the school is not required to keep him. But we're obviously disappointed with the ruling about not keeping the program.
"These are very tough financial times, and tough decisions have to be made. I hope this doesn't encourage people to sue every time a budget cut they don't like is made."
Fullerton announced that it will drop women's volleyball and men's gymnastics as part of a reorganization of priorities and budget cuts.
The volleyball team had a 17-173 conference record over the past 12 years. Athletic Director Bill Shumard said that a substantial additional investment would be needed to make the team competitive and that the university does not have the resources to make that commitment.
But Boyd argued that the university's decision violates state education codes that call for progress in gender equity in athletics.
He said the cuts--volleyball had a $141,000 budget and 12 athletes, and men's gymnastics had a $50,000 budget and eight athletes--bore more heavily on women than men, widening Fullerton's disparity.
Boyd alleged that eliminating women's volleyball would be a regressive step, and Schenk's decision to grant the injunction is a strong indication that he agrees.
"If he's convinced now, it's going to take a lot more to unconvince him," Huffman said about Schenk. "I'd be surprised if they (university officials) don't try to settle, but we'd love to win and set a precedent.
"What they are doing is wrong, but no one has ever challenged the (state) statute or litigated it. Others will now have an avenue to pursue instead of blazing a trail, which isn't easy."
A key issue likely to be raised at the permanent injunction hearing is whether the school must reinstate volleyball or instead add other women's sports.
"We'd like to bring in women's soccer and golf, which would be more cost effective and provide more opportunities for women," Carlin said. "These issues will be dealt with."
The Office of Civil Rights is investigating Fullerton, Fresno State and San Jose State for possible violations of Title IX of the Education Act of 1972, which requires equal treatment of men and women.
Fullerton coaches were issued an eight-page questionnaire from the rights office Tuesday during a staff meeting. Questions pertain to such things as funding levels and the ratio of men to women for the university as a whole, versus that of the athletic department. Both are considered gauges of Title IX compliance.
Fullerton has 9,596 male students and 11,678 female students, 45.3% to 54.7%. But there are 267 male athletes and 104 female athletes, 72% to 28%. Fullerton athletics allocated $2.48 million of its 1991-92 budget to men's sports, $958,700 to women's.
At Fresno State, there are 7,469 male students and 8,426 female students (47% to 53%), but 372 male athletes and 117 female athletes (76.1% to 23.9%). At San Jose State, there are 11,631 male students and 11,503 female students (50.3% to 49.7%), but 198 male athletes and 89 female athletes (69% to 31%).
Officials from those campuses were unable immediately to provide budget breakdowns.
Officials from the Office of Civil Rights' Region IX office in San Francisco were unavailable for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Cal State Fullerton Sports by the Numbers
Men Women Total enrollment 9,596 11,678 Percentages 45.3% 54.7% Athletes* 267 104 Percentages 72% 28% 1991-92 athletic budget $2,483,459 $958,700 Percentages 72.1% 27.9%
* Totals for nine men's sports and eight women's include men's gymnastics and women's volleyball, which school announced on Jan. 28 it intended to drop.