Florida State's athletic department is about to get more equitable, but not exactly by choice.
The Seminoles announced Tuesday they will add a women's lacrosse team to its roster of varsity sports, 18 months after they were reported by USA Today to not be in compliance with the Title IX law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in education.
Prominent Title IX lawyer Arthur Bryant reportedly threatened Florida State with legal action in early August while in consultation with the school's club women's lacrosse team.
From USA Today:
“This is a great victory for the women at FSU and all who care about Title IX and gender equity in sports,” Bryant said. “We are proud to represent the courageous women on the club lacrosse team, who decided to stand up and fight. We also commend FSU, which decided to do the right thing. We are grateful to them all.”
The team will begin play no later than the 2025-26 academic year.
A USA Today report published in May 2022 had revealed Florida State to have fudged its federally mandated reports on the number of male and female athletes in its programs.
The Seminoles' women's cross country team, a sport that only the top five runners score points at meets, reportedly had 43 athletes on its roster, while the men's team had 13. According to USA Today, the athletic department also triple-counted 38 of the women, even though less than a third of them competed in all three seasons.
The Florida State track and field teams reportedly had only 38 of their 45 male athletes counted, while all 66 women were counted, despite more than half of the women not competing in any indoor meets that year. Florida State was hardly the only school alleged to have engaged in such practices as well (Michigan reportedly had a 43-person women's basketball team, 29 of which were men, while Wisconsin claimed to have a 165-person women's rowing team).
Florida State athletic director Michael Alford, who previously told USA Today the Seminoles report their participation data in accordance with legal guidelines, hailed lacrosse as "the fastest growing college sport nationally" in the program's announcement, while the captain of the club team noted the significance of the news to USA Today:
“We are thrilled that, together, we are making history,” said FSU women’s club lacrosse team captain Sophia Villalonga. “We hope this will prompt women nationwide to enforce Title IX and demand equality. And we hope FSU’s willingness to provide that will prompt other schools to do so, too.”
Among Florida State's current sports, the department currently has men's and women's teams in basketball, baseball/softball, swimming and diving, tennis, golf, track and field and cross country, in addition to the men's football team and the women's soccer, volleyball and beach volleyball teams.