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Former U of M gymnast sues school over elimination of team

Evan Ng's suit claims the decision was unconstitutional, and seeks to have the men's gymnastics team reinstated.

MINNEAPOLIS — A former University of Minnesota men's gymnastics team member has filed a lawsuit against the U of M's Board of Regents, athletic director Mark Coyle, and University President Joan T.A. Gabel, claiming sex discrimination over the elimination of the program.

Plaintiff Evan Ng, now a sophomore at U, competed for the Gophers men's gymnastics team for one season as a freshman before the team was cut, according to the suit.

Ng's lawsuit claims the men's gymnastics program was eliminated "in a misguided, unlawful, and unconstitutional attempt to comply with Title IX" to maintain a proportional ratio of male and female athletes. The suit claims the decision to cut men's gymnastics amounts to gender discrimination, in violation of both Title IX and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Last October, U of M Regents voted to cut men's gymnastics, men's tennis, and men's indoor track and field. At the time, athletic director Coyle cited budget shortfalls in the athletics department, and said that adding more women's sports to meet Title IX requirements would not be feasible because of the budget challenges.

Ng's suit claims the university's budget shortfall was less than anticipated, but the Regents moved forward with the elimination of the teams under what Ng's attorneys claim was an "erroneous interpretation of Title IX's requirements." The suit claims Coyle was incorrect that the university needed to align its ratio of male athletes to the ratio of the male undergraduate population.

The suit claims supporters also presented additional options for saving the team, including proposals for self-funding or a postponement, but the suit said the ideas were rejected, citing Title IX.

According to court documents, Ng is seeking a jury trial in the case, along with potential declaratory or injunctive relief, including possible reinstatement of the men's gymnastics program.

The University of Minnesota released a statement on Friday afternoon:

"The decision to eliminate three intercollegiate sports programs was a difficult one. Importantly, this lawsuit isn’t just about the University. It is a broad challenge to how Title IX has been implemented by the U.S. government across colleges and Universities nationwide to achieve equal opportunity. The University has and will always honor its legal obligations."

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