"My take away [from the decision] is the courts are going to be pretty rigorous in reviewing compliance of Title IX," Mooney said.
Another lawyer not involved directly in the dispute said schools need to think about the legal ramifications of their budgetary decisions. "As schools are facing fiscal issues, they're looking to cut some of the non-revenue generating sports," said Ronald E. Kowalski II, of Stamford's Cacace, Tusch & Santagata. "So it's important that any institution in that position be mindful of their obligations under Title IX."
After Quinnipiac announced plans to eliminate women's volleyball for budgetary reasons in 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut filed suit on behalf of the university's female athletes. The next year, Underhill ruled for the plaintiffs. He ordered the university to stop discriminating against female athletes and to maintain the women's volleyball team until it can prove compliance with Title IX.
In August 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld that ruling. The latest ruling rejects the university's argument that since the 2010 decision it has satisfied Title IX requirements by adding sports teams for women.
"This decision not only continues to protect the opportunities for female athletes at Quinnipiac, it provides guidance for colleges and universities across the country that equal athletic opportunity for women means equivalent and meaningful opportunities for real competition," said Sandra Staub, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, in a statement.
Jonathan B. Orleans, a lawyer from Pullman & Comley in Bridgeport, who assisted the ACLU in the case, along with Alex V. Hernandez, of the same firm, said it was noteworthy that Judge Underhill did more than compare how many positions on varsity sports teams were open to Quinnipiac's male and female athletes.
"The court went on to analyze the quality of competition offered to men's teams and women's teams, and found that women at Quinnipiac were not, on the whole, provided with competitive opportunities equivalent to those provided to men," said Orleans. "This is one of very few, if not the only, court decisions to address this particular aspect of Title IX's requirements."