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UC Davis settles discrimination suit by 3 former female wrestlers

February 16, 2012 |  5:44 pm

The University of California paid $1.35 million to settle a lawsuit Thursday with three former UC Davis wrestling students after a federal court ruled that the school discriminated against the female athletes.

The plaintiffs -- Lauren Mancuso, Arezou Mansourian and Christine Ng –- alleged that the wrestling coach unfairly cut them from the men’s varsity team based on their gender.

The defendants, which included four now-retired university employees, denied the allegations and said that the athletes underwent the same tryout procedures as the men.

UC Davis never had a women’s intercollegiate wrestling team. Female wrestlers were granted unofficial status on the men’s team and received all the benefits of varsity status, according to the lawsuit.

But when a school official set a roster cap for the number of athletes on the Division 1 Pac-10 men’s wrestling team, players were forced to compete for their position.

Every wrestler, including the three females, were asked to participate in a “wrestle-off” with competitors of equal size and weight. The plaintiffs were cut from the team, along with several male wrestlers, according to the lawsuit.

The female wrestlers filed a formal complaint against the school that eventually landed in the courts.

In August, a federal judge found that UC Davis violated the Title IX requirement to offer equal sports opportunities for women. The ruling stated that the university failed to expand women’s intercollegiate sports between 1998 and 2005, the years the plaintiffs attended UC Davis. The university, however, says it added several women’s sports teams during that period.

A case against the employees alleging that the school officials violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution was dismissed.

The settlement marks the end of an eight-year court battle. In an earlier ruling, the judge ruled in favor of the university, but that judgment was overturned by an appeals court.

The $1.35-million payout covers the cost of the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and court costs incurred during the case.  No money was paid to the plaintiffs in the settlement.

University officials said the payout was significantly less than what the school may have been ordered to pay if the issue was decided in the court.

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-- Angel Jennings

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