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Dear Colleague Letter


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the underrepresented sex are fully and effectively accommodated. This letter provides information that guides OCR in its evaluation of compliance with Part Three and the nondiscriminatory implementation of assessments of students’ athletic interests and abilities under it.

Under Part Three, the focus is on full and effective accommodation of the interests and abilities of the institution’s students who are members of the underrepresented sex — including students who are admitted to the institution though not yet enrolled.12 As stated in the 1996 Clarification, and as further discussed below, in determining compliance with Part Three, OCR considers all of the following three questions:

  1. Is there unmet interest in a particular sport?

  2. Is there sufficient ability to sustain a team in the sport?

  3. Is there a reasonable expectation of competition for the team?

If the answer to all three questions is “Yes,” OCR will find that an institution is not fully and effectively accommodating the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex and therefore is not in compliance with Part Three.

  1. Unmet Interest and Ability — OCR Evaluation Criteria

In determining whether an institution has unmet interest and ability to support an intercollegiate team in a particular sport, OCR evaluates a broad range of indicators, including:

  • whether an institution uses nondiscriminatory methods of assessment when determining the athletic interests and abilities of its students;
  • whether a viable team for the underrepresented sex recently was eliminated;
  • multiple indicators of interest;
  • multiple indicators of ability; and
  • frequency of conducting assessments.

Each of these five criteria is described below. Following the discussion of these criteria, this section provides technical assistance recommendations for effective assessment procedures and the nondiscriminatory implementation of a survey as one component of assessing the interests and abilities of students of the underrepresented sex. This section concludes with a discussion of the multiple indicators OCR evaluates to determine whether there are a sufficient number of students with unmet interest and ability to sustain a new intercollegiate team.

12 OCR examines an institution's recruitment practices under another part of the 1979 Policy Interpretation. See 44 Fed. Reg. at 71417. Accordingly, where an institution recruits potential student athletes for its men's teams, it must ensure that its women's teams are provided with substantially equal opportunities to recruit potential student athletes.

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Last Modified: 01/10/2020