MAC denies holding up reinstatement of EMU softball, tennis

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

The Mid-American Conference is disputing that it is holding up the reinstatement of two Eastern Michigan women's sports teams.

Lawyers for two former student-athletes said Tuesday that the MAC has refused to add Eastern Michigan women's tennis and softball back on to the 2018-19 schedule. The sports are played mostly in the spring.

Eastern Michigan has no plans to cut any sports.

The MAC didn't respond to requests for comment Tuesday, but issued a statement Wednesday.

The statement read:

"Despite the fact that the attorney for two plaintiff student-athletes with a pending lawsuit against Eastern Michigan University for terminating its softball and women’s tennis teams has painted the Mid-American Conference as prohibiting the university from moving forward with reinstating those sports, nothing could be further from the facts. The Mid-American Conference is not a party in the pending lawsuit. The plaintiffs' attorney appears to be more interested in trying the lawsuit in the media than working to resolve the issues of the teams’ reinstatements at Eastern Michigan University.  

"At this point a preliminary injunction has been issued in the lawsuit and no remedial action has been ordered by the Court.  

"It is our position that instead of blaming the conference, efforts should be focused on resolving the issues in the lawsuit."

Lawyers for the two student-athletes — tennis player Marie Mayerova and softball player Ariana Chretien — and lawyers for the university met Tuesday for a special conference at the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan, in Ypsilanti, following a judge's preliminary injunction in September halting the university's decision to eliminate the two women's sports.

Lawyers for both parties reported progress in discussions, but no resolution has been met. The two sides are scheduled to meet again Nov. 27.

The student-athletes are front and center in a Title IX complaint filed in June against Eastern Michigan, where as recently as 2016-17, the U.S. Department of Education reported 59.74 percent of the student body was female, compared to 43.88 percent of student-athletes.

In March, Eastern Michigan officials announced they were eliminating four sports, including men's wrestling and men/s swimming and diving, in an effort to save $2.4 million annually. Judge George Caram Steeh, in a 37-page decision last month, granted a preliminary injunction, writing, in part, "Financial hardship is not a defense for a Title IX violation."

Twitter: @tonypaul1984