Could Cal rugby be reinstated, along with four other sports?

A report in the New York Times suggests that Cal’s athletic programs may fall foul of the federal law requiring gender equity, known as Title IX. According to the Times, 40% of Cal’s 965 athletes in varsity programs are women, while 53% of the student body is female.

Foti Mellis, senior associate athletic director, told the Times that by next fall the department planned to expand female rosters to 393 and limit male rosters to 377, which would be a cut of 84 on the current male numbers and an increase of 52 for women.

When Cal announced in September that it was cutting baseball, rugby, men’s and women’s gymnastics and women’s lacrosse, budget constraints were cited as the reason. Rugby supporters in particular voiced opinions that Title IX was a particular problem for them: varsity rugby had 60 men on its roster. But the report in the Times suggests that the cost of cutting two women’s sports — gymnastics and lacrosse — may have exacerbated the Title IX issue.

An announcement is expected Thursday on whether the athletic department will reinstate some or all of the cut teams. In the fall, the university said it would require $80 million in private donations to save the sports. More recently, that has been scaled back to $25 million and a plan to ensure long-term funding from private sources. Reinstating women’s gymnastics and women’s lacrosse would please those sports’ supporters and help the Title IX arithmetic. If baseball and rugby are reinstated, however, their large rosters could mean more Title IX difficulties.

Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...