The Florida State Women’s Lacrosse team is currently operating as a non-varsity sport at the University with the intention of achieving varsity status. Plenty of teams have made the jump from club to varsity. However, FSU is doing something almost no team has ever attempted; bringing the University to court unless given varsity status.
The Seminoles play in the Division I West conference of the Southeast Women’s Lacrosse Conference (SWLL) within the Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse Associates (WCLA), which includes Auburn, Alabama, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, and Alabama Birmingham. Historically, they have always been a solid program within the region and nationally. This past year they went 15-3 and made it to the national tournament, where they lost to eventual champions Boston College in the first round. Off the field, they do a great job with their social media, running their website, selling merchandise, and recruiting new players.
The average person and burner Twitter accounts believe that Title IX means “to add a men’s sport, you need to add a women’s sport.” However, it goes a little deeper than that. I won’t give too much detail on the subject because there is much to know, but this article along with this one explains the topic much more in-depth. The main issue is FSU has an 11% gap between men’s and women’s opportunities. Given the number of men on the varsity teams, this means FSU needed to add 195 women to its athletic program to provide substantially proportional opportunities for women.
The Florida State Women’s Lacrosse team argues that filling this gap requires FSU to make lacrosse a new varsity team at the school. To show how serious they are, the team retained Arthur Bryant, a lawyer from Bailey Glasser, who was lead trial counsel in the first Title IX case tried against a university for discriminating against its women athletes and potential athletes.
Sophia Villalonga is leading the charge on this Title IX pursuit. Villalonga is a second-year graduate student in computer science and has been team president for the past two years. She will be a member of the Seminoles team for her 6th season this year (club lacrosse legend). On July 7th, she sent an extremely detailed email to the school showing the Title IX violations, a varsity women’s team plan, and letters of support from Duke and South Florida’s women’s coaches (both NCAA DI programs). The school refused to hear the team’s plan and immediately shut down the idea of adding any new varsity sports. Bryant was hired shortly after to represent the program. Bryant agreed to represent them.
Every player and alum of the team hopped on board to support the plan, as well as the aforementioned Duke and South Florida coaches along with USA Lacrosse. In the next few months, it will be no surprise if they gain more support from other NCAA DI Women’s Lacrosse teams, other women’s club teams, and lacrosse fans nationwide.
The situation is simply a case of women fighting for equal representation in the sport and school they love. Villalonga stated, “I love FSU. I have loved every moment at FSU and on the club team, and I even decided to attend grad school here because I wanted to stay a part of them both. We are not fighting the school out of malice; we are fighting for women’s equality. Title IX has been in place for 51 years. Closing the gap is past due.”