SELYA, Circuit Judge.
In this watershed case, defendants-appellants Brown University, Vartan Gregorian, and David Roach appeal from the district court's issuance of a preliminary injunction ordering Brown to reinstate its women's gymnastics and volleyball programs to full intercollegiate varsity status pending the resolution of a Title IX claim.
I. BROWN ATHLETICS: AN OVERVIEW
College athletics, particularly in the realm of football and basketball, has traditionally occupied a prominent role in American sports and American society. For college students, athletics offers an opportunity to exacuate leadership skills, learn teamwork, build self-confidence, and perfect self-discipline. In addition, for many student-athletes, physical skills are a passport to college admissions and scholarships, allowing them to attend otherwise inaccessible schools. These opportunities, and the lessons learned on the playing fields, are invaluable in attaining career and life successes in and out of professional sports.
The highway of opportunity runs in both directions. Not only student-athletes, but universities, too, benefit from the magic of intercollegiate sports. Successful teams generate television revenues and gate receipts which often fund significant percentages
In these terms, Brown will never be confused with Notre Dame or the more muscular members of the Big Ten. Although its football team did play in the 1916 Rose Bowl and its men's basketball team won the Ivy League championship as recently as 1986, Brown's athletic program has only occasionally achieved national prominence or, for that matter, enjoyed sustained success.
The absence of women's athletics at Brown was, until 1970, an ineluctable consequence of the absence of women; Brown sponsored a women's college — Pembroke — but did not itself admit women. In 1971, Brown subsumed Pembroke. Brown promptly upgraded Pembroke's rather primitive athletic offerings so that by 1977 there were fourteen women's varsity teams. In subsequent years, Brown added only one distaff team: winter track. Hence, in the 1991-92 academic year, Brown fielded fifteen women's varsity teams — one fewer than the number of men's varsity teams.
II. THE PLAINTIFF CLASS
In the spring of 1991, Brown announced that it, like many other schools, was in a financial bind, and that, as a belt-tightening measure, it planned to drop four sports from its intercollegiate varsity athletic roster: women's volleyball and gymnastics, men's golf and water polo. The University permitted the teams to continue playing as "intercollegiate clubs," a status that allowed them to compete against varsity teams from other colleges,
Before the cuts, Brown athletics offered an aggregate of 328 varsity slots for female athletes and 566 varsity slots for male athletes. Thus, women had 36.7% of the athletic opportunities and men 63.3%. Abolishing the four varsity teams took substantially more dollars from the women's athletic budget than from the men's budget, but did not materially affect the athletic opportunity ratios; women retained 36.6% of the opportunities and men 63.4%. At that time (and for a number of years prior thereto), Brown's student body comprised approximately 52% men and 48% women.
Following Brown's announcement of the cutbacks, disappointed members of the women's volleyball and gymnastics teams brought suit. They proceeded on an implied cause of action under Title IX, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681-1688 (1988). See Franklin v. Gwinnett County Pub. Sch., ___ U.S.
On plaintiffs' motion, the district court certified a class of "all present and future Brown University women students and potential students who participate, seek to participate, and/or are deterred from participating in intercollegiate athletics funded by Brown." And, after hearing fourteen days of testimony from twenty witnesses, the judge granted a preliminary injunction requiring Brown to reinstate the two women's teams pending the outcome of a full trial on the merits. See Cohen, 809 F.Supp. at 1001. We stayed execution of the order and expedited Brown's appeal.
III. TITLE IX AND COLLEGIATE ATHLETICS
Title IX prohibits gender-based discrimination by educational institutions receiving federal financial support — in practice, the vast majority of all accredited colleges and universities. The statute sketches wide policy lines, leaving the details to regulating agencies. Since this appeal demands that we invade terra incognita,
Scope of Title IX.
At its inception, the broad proscriptive language of Title IX caused considerable consternation in the academic world. The academy's anxiety chiefly centered around identifying which individual programs, particularly in terms of athletics, might come within the scope of the discrimination provision, and, relatedly, how the government would determine compliance. The gridiron fueled these concerns: for many schools, the men's football budget far exceeded that of any other sport, and men's athletics as a whole received the lion's share of dedicated resources — a share that, typically, was vastly disproportionate to the percentage of men in the student body.
Part of the confusion about the scope of Title IX's coverage and the acceptable avenues of compliance arose from the absence of secondary legislative materials. Congress included no committee report with the final bill and there were apparently only two mentions of intercollegiate athletics during the congressional debate. See 118 Cong.Rec. 5,807 (1972) (statement of Sen. Bayh on privacy in athletic facilities); 117 Cong.Rec. 30,407 (1971) (statement of Sen. Bayh noting that proposed Title IX will not require gender-blended football teams). Nevertheless, under congressional direction to implement Title IX, the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) promulgated regulations in 1975 which included specific provisions for college athletics. Four years later, HEW's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) added another layer of regulatory exegesis when, after notice and comment, it published a "Policy Interpretation" that offered a more detailed
In 1984, the Supreme Court radically altered the contemporary reading of Title IX. The Court held that Title IX was "program-specific," so that its tenets applied only to the program(s) which actually received federal funds and not to the rest of the university. Grove City College v. Bell, 465 U.S. 555, 574, 104 S.Ct. 1211, 1221, 79 L.Ed.2d 516 (1984). Because few athletic departments are direct recipients of federal funds — most federal money for universities is channelled through financial aid offices or invested directly in research grants — Grove City cabined Title IX and placed virtually all collegiate athletic programs beyond its reach.
In response to Grove City, Congress scrapped the program-specific approach and reinstated an institution-wide application of Title IX by passing the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987, 20 U.S.C. § 1687 (1988). The Restoration Act required that if any arm of an educational institution received federal funds, the institution as a whole must comply with Title IX's provisions. See id.; see also S.Rep. No. 64, 100th Cong., 2d Sess. 4 (1988), reprinted in 1988 U.S.C.C.A.N. 3, 6 (explaining that Congress wanted to prohibit discrimination throughout an institution if the institution received any federal funds). Although the Restoration Act does not specifically mention sports, the record of the floor debate leaves little doubt that the enactment was aimed, in part, at creating a more level playing field for female athletes. See, e.g., 130 Cong.Rec. S12,642 (daily ed. Oct. 2, 1984) (statement of Sen. Byrd decrying past discrimination against female athletes); 130 Cong.Rec. S11,253 (daily ed. Sept. 17, 1984) (statement of Sen. Hatch regarding importance of Title IX to ensuring development of women athletes); 130 Cong.Rec. S2,267 (daily ed. Mar. 2, 1984) (statement of Sen. Riegle noting extensive evidence of sex discrimination in education and athletics).
The appellants do not challenge the district court's finding that, under existing law, Brown's athletic department is subject to Title IX. Accordingly, we devote the remainder of Part III to deterrating the meaning of Title IX, looking first at the statute and then at the regulations.
Title IX, like the Restoration Act, does not explicitly treat college athletics.
20 U.S.C. § 1681(a) (1988). After listing a number of exempt organizations, section 1681 makes clear that, while Title IX prohibits discrimination, it does not mandate strict numerical equality between the gender balance of a college's athletic program and the gender balance of its student body. Thus, section 1681(a) shall not
20 U.S.C. § 1681(b) (1988). Put another way, a court assessing Title IX compliance may not find a violation solely because there is a disparity between the gender composition of an educational institution's student constituency, on the one hand, and its athletic programs, on the other hand.
That is not to say, however, that evidence of such a disparity is irrelevant. Quite the contrary: under the proviso contained in section 1681(b), a Title IX plaintiff in an athletic discrimination suit must accompany statistical evidence of disparate impact with some further evidence of discrimination, such as unmet need amongst the members of the disadvantaged gender.
As we mentioned above, the Secretary of HEW, following Congress's instructions, promulgated regulations implementing Title IX in the pre-Grove City era. See 40 Fed.Reg. 24,128 (1975). Thereafter, in 1979, Congress split HEW into the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Education (DED). See 20 U.S.C. §§ 3401-3510 (1988). In a wonderful example of bureaucratic muddle, the existing Title IX regulations were left within HHS's arsenal while, at the same time, DED replicated them as part of its own regulatory armamentarium. Compare 45 C.F.R. § 86 (1992) (HHS regulations) with 34 C.F.R. § 106 (1992) (DED regulations). Both sets of regulations were still in effect when the Restoration Act passed. They are identical, save only for changes in nomenclature reflecting the reorganization of the federal bureaucracy.
In short, like pretenders to the emirate of a deceased sheik, both HHS and DED lay an hereditary claim to this oasis which arises from the regulatory desert, asserting authority to enforce Title IX. Nevertheless, DED is the principle locus of ongoing enforcement activity. See 20 U.S.C. § 3441(a)(1) (transferring all education functions of HEW to DED); see also 20 U.S.C. § 3441(a)(3) (transferring education-related OCR work to DED). Therefore, like the parties, we treat DED, acting through its OCR, as the administrative agency charged with administering Title IX.
Recognizing the agency's role has important practical and legal consequences. Although DED is not a party to this appeal, we must accord its interpretation of Title IX appreciable deference. See Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 844, 104 S.Ct. 2778, 2782, 81 L.Ed.2d 694 (1984); see also Udall v. Tallman, 380 U.S. 1, 16, 85 S.Ct. 792, 801, 13 L.Ed.2d 616 (1965) (noting that the Supreme Court "gives great deference to the interpretation given the statute by the officers or agency charged with its administration"). The degree of deference is particularly high in Title IX cases because Congress explicitly delegated to the agency the task of prescribing standards for athletic programs under Title IX. See Pub.L. No. 93-380, § 844, 88 Stat. 612 (1974); see also Chevron, 467 U.S. at 844, 104 S.Ct. at 2782 (holding that where Congress has explicitly delegated responsibility to an agency, the regulation deserves "controlling weight"); Batterton v. Francis, 432 U.S. 416, 425, 97 S.Ct. 2399, 2405, 53 L.Ed.2d 448 (1977); Alvarez-Flores v. INS, 909 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir.1990).
It is against this backdrop that we scrutinize the regulations and the Policy Interpretation.
Finally, whether teams are segregated by sex or not, the school must provide gender-blind equality of opportunity to its student body. The regulations offer a non-exclusive compendium of ten factors which OCR will consider in assessing compliance with this mandate:
34 C.F.R. § 106.41(c) (1992).
In line with the Supreme Court's direction that, "if we are to give [Title IX] the scope that its origins dictate, we must accord it a sweep as broad as its language," North Haven Bd. of Educ. v. Bell, 456 U.S. 512, 521, 102 S.Ct. 1912, 1918, 72 L.Ed.2d 299 (1982) (quoting United States v. Price, 383 U.S. 787, 801, 86 S.Ct. 1152, 1160, 16 L.Ed.2d 267 (1966)) (collecting cases) (brackets in original), the Policy Interpretation limns three major areas of regulatory compliance:
Equal opportunity to participate lies at the core of Title IX's purpose. Because the third compliance area delineates this heartland, we agree with the district courts that have so ruled and hold that, with regard to the effective accommodation of students' interests and abilities, an institution can violate Title IX even if it meets the "financial assistance" and "athletic equivalence" standards. In other words, an institution that offers women a smaller number of athletic opportunities than the statute requires may not rectify that violation simply by lavishing more resources on those women or achieving equivalence in other respects.
44 Fed.Reg. at 71,418. The first benchmark furnishes a safe harbor for those institutions that have distributed athletic opportunities in numbers "substantially proportionate" to the gender composition of their student bodies. Thus, a university which does not wish to engage in extensive
The second and third parts of the accommodation test recognize that there are circumstances under which, as a practical matter, something short of this proportionality is a satisfactory proxy for gender balance. For example, so long as a university is continually expanding athletic opportunities in an ongoing effort to meet the needs of the underrepresented gender, and persists in this approach as interest and ability levels in its student body and secondary feeder schools rise, benchmark two is satisfied and Title IX does not require that the university leap to complete gender parity in a single bound. Or, if a school has a student body in which one sex is demonstrably less interested in athletics, Title IX does not require that the school create teams for, or rain money upon, otherwise disinterested students; rather, the third benchmark is satisfied if the underrepresented sex's discernible interests are fully and effectively accommodated.
It seems unlikely, even in this day and age, that the athletic establishments of many coeducational universities reflect the gender balance of their student bodies.
Although the full-and-effective-accommodation standard is high, it is not absolute. Even when male athletic opportunities outnumber female athletic opportunities, and the university has not met the first benchmark (substantial statistical proportionality) or the second benchmark (continuing program expansion) of the accommodation test, the mere fact that there are some female students interested in a sport does not ipso facto require the school to provide a varsity team in order to comply with the third benchmark. Rather, the institution can satisfy the third benchmark by ensuring participatory opportunities at the intercollegiate level when, and to the extent that, there is "sufficient interest and ability among the members of the excluded sex to sustain a viable team and a reasonable expectation of intercollegiate competition for that team...." 44 Fed.Reg. at 71,418. Staying on top of the problem is not sport for the short-winded: the institution must remain vigilant, "upgrading the competitive opportunities available to the historically disadvantaged sex as warranted by developing abilities among the athletes of that sex," id., until the opportunities for, and levels of, competition are equivalent by gender.
Because this is mountainous terrain, an example may serve to clarify the distinction between Brown's proposal and our understanding of the law. Suppose a university (Oooh U.) has a student body consisting of 1,000 men and 1,000 women, a one to one ratio. If 500 men and 250 women are able and interested athletes, the ratio of interested men to interested women is two to one. Brown takes the position that both the actual gender composition of the student body and whether there is unmet interest among the underrepresented gender are irrelevant; in order to satisfy the third benchmark, Oooh U. must only provide athletic opportunities in line with the two to one interested athlete ratio, say, 100 slots for men and 50 slots for women. Under this view, the interest of 200 women would be unmet — but there would be no Title IX violation.
We think that Brown's perception of the Title IX universe is myopic. The fact that the overrepresented gender is less than fully accommodated will not, in and of itself, excuse a shortfall in the provision of opportunities for the underrepresented gender. Rather, the law requires that, in the absence of continuing program expansion (benchmark two), schools either meet benchmark one by providing athletic opportunities in proportion to the gender composition of the student body (in Oooh U.'s case, a roughly equal number of slots for men and women, as the student body is equally divided), or meet benchmark three by fully accommodating interested athletes among the underrepresented sex (providing, at Oooh U., 250 slots for women).
In the final analysis, Brown's view is wrong on two scores. It is wrong as a matter of law, for DED's Policy Interpretation, which requires full accommodation of the underrepresented gender, draws its essence from the statute. Whether Brown's concept might be thought more attractive, or whether we, if writing on a pristine page, would craft the regulation in a manner different than the agency, are not very important considerations. Because the agency's rendition stands upon a plausible, if not inevitable, reading of Title IX, we are obligated to enforce the regulation according to its tenor. See Chevron, 467 U.S. at 843 n. 11, 104 S.Ct. at 2782 n. 11 (holding that a "court need not conclude that the agency construction was the only one it permissibly could have adopted to uphold [it]") (collecting cases); Massachusetts v. Secretary of Agric., 984 F.2d 514, 522 (1st Cir.1993) (similar).
Brown's reading of Title IX is legally flawed for yet another reason. It proceeds from the premise that the agency's third benchmark countervails Title IX. But, this particular imprecation of the third benchmark overlooks the accommodation test's general purpose: to determine whether a student has been "excluded from participation
As it happens, Brown's view is also poor policy for, in the long run, a rule such as Brown advances would likely make it more difficult for colleges to ensure that they have complied with Title IX. Given that the survey of interests and abilities would begin under circumstances where men's athletic teams have a considerable head start, such a rule would almost certainly blunt the exhortation that schools should "take into account the nationally increasing levels of women's interests and abilities" and avoid "disadvantag[ing] members of an underrepresented sex...." 44 Fed.Reg. at 71,417.
Brown's proposal would also aggravate the quantification problems that are inevitably bound up with Title IX. Student plaintiffs, who carry the burden of proof on this issue, as well as universities monitoring self-compliance, would be required to assess the level of interest in both the male and female student populations and determine comparatively how completely the university was serving the interests of each sex. By contrast, as we read the accommodation test's third benchmark, it requires a relatively simple assessment of whether there is unmet need in the underrepresented gender that rises to a level sufficient to warrant a new team or the upgrading of an existing team. We think the simpler reading is far more serviceable.
Furthermore, by moving away from OCR's third benchmark, which focuses on the levels of interest and ability extant in the student body, Brown's theory invites thorny questions as to the appropriate survey population, whether from the university, typical feeder schools, or the regional community. In that way, Brown's proposal would do little more than overcomplicate an already complex equation.
We will not paint the lily. Brown's approach cannot withstand scrutiny on either legal or policy grounds. We conclude that DED's Policy Interpretation means exactly what it says. This plain meaning is a proper, permissible rendition of the statute.
IV. THE CONSTITUTIONAL CHALLENGE
We turn now to a series of case-specific issues, starting with Brown's constitutional challenge to the statutory scheme.
Brown asseverates that if the third part of the accommodation test is read as OCR wrote it — to require full and effective accommodation of the underrepresented gender — the test violates the Fifth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. We think not.
Brown assumes that full and effective accommodation disadvantages male athletes.
Brown rehashes its equal protection argument and serves it up as a nominally different dish, arguing that the district court's preliminary injunction constitutes "affirmative action" and violates the Equal Protection Clause because the court lacked a necessary factual predicate to warrant such a step.
V. BURDEN OF PROOF
In addition to its constitutional challenges, Brown questions the district court's allocation of the burden of proof. It suggests that the analytic model of burden setting and shifting commonly accepted in Title VII and ADEA cases, see, e.g., Texas Dep't of Community Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 254, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 1094, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981); McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-05, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 1824-25, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973); Mesnick v. General Elec. Co., 950 F.2d 816, 823 (1st Cir.1991), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 112 S.Ct. 2965, 119 L.Ed.2d 586 (1992), is ripe for importation into the precincts patrolled by Title IX. We reject the suggestion.
In our view, there is no need to search for analogies where, as in the Title IX milieu, the controlling statutes and regulations are clear. To invoke the prophylaxis of Title IX, the statute, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(b), and the regulations, read together, require a Title IX plaintiff to show disparity between the gender composition of the institution's student body and its athletic program, thereby proving that there is an underrepresented gender. Then, the plaintiff must show that a second element—unmet interest—is present. In
Over and beyond the express dictates of the applicable statute and regulations, there is another valid reason for eschewing the Title VII paradigm in most Title IX cases. The scope and purpose of Title IX, which merely conditions government grants to educational institutions, are substantially different from those of Title VII, which sets basic employment standards. See Franklin v. Gwinnett County Pub. Sch., 911 F.2d 617, 622 (11th Cir.1990) (declining to apply Title VII analysis to Title IX litigation), aff'd, ___ U.S. ___, 112 S.Ct. 1028, 117 L.Ed.2d 208 (1992). Title IX, while it applies only to schools that receive federal funds, influences almost all aspects of educational management. In contrast, Title VII applies to a much wider range of institutions — virtually all employers — but targets only employment-related matters. Moreover, Title IX is largely aspirational — on the whole, affected institutions choose how to accomplish the statutory goal — whereas Title VII is largely peremptory — covered employers must adhere to statutorily prescribed standards. Thus, the former is a loosely laced buskin, inhospitable to the specialized choreography of presumption and production upon which the Burdine/McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework depends.
We conclude, therefore, that excepting perhaps in the employment discrimination context, see Lipsett v. University of P.R., 864 F.2d 881, 897 (1st Cir.1988) (applying Title VII standards in Title IX case, but explicitly limiting the crossover to the employment context), the Title VII burden-of-proof rules do not apply in Title IX cases.
VI. THE PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION
We come at long last to the cynosure of the appeal. This is familiar territory. A district court, faced with a motion for preliminary injunction, must assess the request in four particular ways, evaluating (1) the movant's probability of victory on the merits; (2) the potential for irreparable harm if the injunction is refused; (3) the balance of interests as between the parties, i.e., whether the harm to the movant if the injunction is withheld outweighs the harm to the nonmovant if the injunction is granted; and (4) the public interest. See Narragansett Indian Tribe v. Guilbert, 934 F.2d 4, 5 (1st Cir.1991); Aoude v. Mobil Oil Corp., 862 F.2d 890, 892 (1st Cir.1988); Hypertherm, Inc. v. Precision Prods., Inc., 832 F.2d 697, 699 & n. 2 (1st Cir.1987). Of course, a district court's conclusions at the preliminary injunction stage are only attempts to predict probable outcomes. Thus, "a party losing the battle on likelihood of success may nonetheless win the war at a succeeding trial...." Guilbert, 934 F.2d at 6.
If, in conducting this tamisage, the district court has made no clear error of law or fact, we will overturn its calibration of the four factors only for a manifest abuse of discretion. See Weaver v. Henderson, 984 F.2d 11, 12 (1st Cir.1993); Guilbert, 934 F.2d at 5.
Here, the district court found that the quadrat of factors favored plaintiffs' position. See Cohen, 809 F.Supp. at 985-1001. Brown disagrees with these findings up and down the line, but offers developed
Likelihood of Success.
It is old hat, but still very much in fashion, that a movant's likelihood of success at trial is particularly influential in the preliminary injunction calculus. See Weaver, 984 F.2d at 12; Guilbert, 934 F.2d at 6; Public Serv. Co. v. Town of West Newbury, 835 F.2d 380, 383 (1st Cir.1987). In this case, the district court paid meticulous attention to the parties' prospects for success over the long haul. The court plainly visualized both the factual intricacies and legal complexities that characterize Title IX litigation. It held a lengthy adversary hearing and reviewed voluminous written submissions. And at journey's end, it correctly focused on the three-part accommodation test.
The court faultlessly dispatched the first two elements of the test. With respect to the comparison between Brown's athletic agenda and student body, we adopt the lower court's record-rooted finding that the University did not meet — or even closely approach — the "substantial proportionality" threshold because it offered too few varsity opportunities for women. See Cohen, 809 F.Supp. at 991. Cognizant, perhaps, that the raw numbers tell an unambiguous tale, Brown does not challenge the inviolability of this finding.
As to the test's second part, the court below found that, although Brown could point to "impressive growth" in its women's athletic program in the 1970s, the school had not continued filling the gap during the next two decades. Id. On this basis, the court concluded that Brown had not met the benchmark. See id. Brown asserts that the district court erred by not crediting it sufficiently for its dramatic expansion of women's sports in the 1970s, and we are not entirely unsympathetic to this plea. In the last analysis, however, this was a judgment call and the trial court's judgment was not unreasonable. While a university deserves appreciable applause for supercharging a low-voltage athletic program in one burst rather than powering it up over a longer period, such an energization, once undertaken, does not forever hold the institution harmless. Here, Brown labored for six years to weave a broad array of new activities into the fabric of its palestrian offerings. The district court apparently believed, however, that Brown then rested on its laurels for at least twice that long. The very length of this hiatus suggests something far short of a continuing practice of program expansion. And, moreover, a university must design expansion in whatever form and at whatever pace to respond to the flux and reflux of unserved interests. The court below found that Brown failed in this task. See id. The issue of responsiveness is fact-intensive and in most instances, as here, its resolution will be within the trier's province. We find no error, therefore, in the district court's resolution of the second aspect of the accommodation test.
The third benchmark presents a more problematic scenario. The district court incorrectly held that Brown bore the burden of showing that it had fully and effectively accommodated the interests and abilities of its women athletes. See id. at 997. Section 1681(b) requires that the plaintiffs, rather than the University, prove a shortfall in the full and effective accommodation of interested female athletes by showing, initially, both numerical disparity
We find this to be a particularly auspicious setting in which to employ such a device. Although the full and effective accommodation of athletic interests is likely to be a complicated issue where allegedly underrepresented plaintiffs sue to force a university to create a neoteric team or upgrade the status of a club team, see, e.g., Cook, 802 F.Supp. at 737, there is unlikely to be any comparably turbid question as to interest and ability where, as here, plaintiffs are seeking merely to forestall the interment of healthy varsity teams.
In this instance, the district court's subsidiary findings of fact render it beyond cavil that the plaintiffs carried their burden of proof. The court found, for example, that there was "great interest and talent" amongst Brown's female undergraduates which, following the cuts, would go unserved. Cohen, 809 F.Supp. at 992. Of particular moment, the court also found the interest and talent on campus ample to support women's varsity volleyball and gymnastics teams, see id. — a finding that is hardly surprising in view of the teams' robust health before the budget-cutters arrived on the scene. The court proceeded to note that, while club teams can be equivalent to intercollegiate teams when they regularly participate in varsity competition, see 44 Fed.Reg. at 71,413 n. 1, the teams that Brown downgraded would not regularly be competing against varsity teams and would suffer a diminution of status in a wide range of other significant respects. See Cohen, 809 F.Supp. at 992-93.
The potency of this evidence is an effective antidote to the district court's partial misapplication of the burden of proof. Because the record contains nothing that would allow a trier to find that Brown's athletic agenda reflects the makeup of its student body or that the plaintiff class is so poorly populated as to warrant a reduction in women's sports,
The next area of inquiry is irreparable harm. The district court heard from a variety of athletic administration experts. The court concluded that, absent judicial intervention, the plaintiffs would suffer irremediable injury in at least three respects: competitive posture, recruitment, and loss of coaching. As club teams, the district court thought women's volleyball and gymnastics would increasingly become less competitive, have fewer players, be unable to schedule varsity teams from other schools, become unattractive to potential stars making college choices, and suffer stagnation in the growth of individual talent due to the absence of coaching.
The Balance of Harms.
Finally, the district court found that the competing equities weighed in favor of granting the injunction. After hearing testimony from Brown's Financial Vice-President and its Associate Athletic Director, the district court concluded that the cost of the interim injunction would be relatively slight; and that, in view of discretionary funds already contained in the Athletic Department budget and a presidential "contingency fund," Brown possessed the wherewithal to defray the costs without undue hardship. See Cohen, 809 F.Supp. at 1000-01. By contrast, the court noted the volleyball and gymnastics programs' continuing deterioration in the aftermath of the demotion. See id. at 992-93. On balance, the court determined that the financial burden on Brown was tolerable, and, in any event, was overbalanced by the potential harm to the plaintiff class if the court took no action.
Brown contests the results of this balancing on the premise that the district court wrongly discounted the testimony of one of its witnesses and did not adequately consider the possibility that false hopes might be raised by a preliminary injunction. It is, however, axiomatic that a district court, sitting without a jury, may selectively discount testimony as it weighs conflicting viewpoints and adjudicates the facts. See Bose Corp. v. Consumers Union of U.S., Inc., 466 U.S. 485, 500, 104 S.Ct. 1949, 1958, 80 L.Ed.2d 502 (1984); Anthony v. Sundlun, 952 F.2d 603, 606 (1st Cir.1991). This is a trial court's prerogative and, indeed, its duty.
It is similarly fundamental that a preliminary injunction, by its very nature, is sometimes ephemeral. Hence, the risk that some observers might read into a temporary restrainer more than it eventually proves to mean is endemic to the equitable device and cannot tip the scales against its use in any particular circumstance. It defies elemental logic to say that parties who the court has determined will probably succeed at trial should be denied the interim relief to which they are entitled because their ultimate victory is less than absolutely certain.
In fine, the district court did not overspill its discretion either in taking Brown's self-interested description of its financial plight with a grain of salt or in limiting the role that raising false hopes might play in the equitable calculus.
We summarize succinctly, beginning with the probability of plaintiffs' success. In an era where the practices of higher education must adjust to stunted revenues, careening costs, and changing demographics, colleges might well be obliged to curb spending on programs, like athletics, that do not lie at the epicenter of their institutional mission. Title IX does not purport to override financial necessity. Yet, the pruning of athletic budgets cannot take place solely in comptrollers' offices, isolated from the legislative and regulatory imperatives that Title IX imposes.
This case aptly illustrates the point. Brown earnestly professes that it has done no more than slash women's and men's athletics by approximately the same degree, and, indeed, the raw numbers lend
The record reveals that the court below paid heed to these realities. It properly recognized that even balanced use of the budget-paring knife runs afoul of Title IX where, as here, the fruits of a university's athletic program remain ill-distributed after the trimming takes place. Because the district court understood this principle, and because its findings of fact as to the case's probable outcome are based on substantial evidence, the court's determination that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits is inexpugnable.
The district court displayed similar dexterity in touching the other three bases en route to a grant of injunctive relief: irreparability of injury, the relative weight of potential harms, and impact on the public interest. The court found that the harm to the plaintiff class was irremediable, absent prompt injunctive relief; that the balance of harms favored such relief; and that the overriding public interest lay in the firm enforcement of Title IX. In each of these areas, as in the likelihood-of-success arena, the court made serial findings that, taken at face value, amply justify injunctive relief. Because these findings derive adequate support from the record, the court's decree must stand as long as the specific relief the court ordered was appropriate. It is to this issue that we now turn.
After applying the preliminary injunction standard, the district court ordered relief pendente lite, temporarily reinstating the women's volleyball and gymnastics teams. Brown argues that such specific relief is inappropriate because it intrudes on Brown's discretion. The point has some cogency. We are a society that cherishes academic freedom and recognizes that universities deserve great leeway in their operations. See, e.g., Wynne v. Tufts Univ. Sch. of Med., 976 F.2d 791, 795 (1st Cir. 1992), petition for cert. filed (Feb. 3, 1993); Lamphere v. Brown Univ., 875 F.2d 916, 922 (1st Cir.1989). In addition, Title IX does not require institutions to fund any particular number or type of athletic opportunities — only that they provide those opportunities in a nondiscriminatory fashion if they wish to receive federal funds.
Nonetheless, the district court has broad discretionary power to take provisional steps restoring the status quo pending the conclusion of a trial. See Ricci v. Okin, 978 F.2d 764, 767 (1st Cir.1992); Guilbert, 934 F.2d at 7 & n. 3. Considering the district court's proper estimation and deft application of the preliminary injunction standard, see supra Part VI, we think that requiring Brown to maintain the women's volleyball and gymnastics teams in varsity status for the time being is a remedial choice within the district court's discretion. That is not to say, however, that the same remedy will be suitable at trial's end if the Title IX charges prove out against Brown. The district court has noted, we believe appropriately, that if it ultimately finds Brown's athletic program to violate Title IX, it will initially require the University to propose a compliance plan rather than mandate the creation or deletion of particular athletic teams. Cohen, 809 F.Supp. at 1001. Although the district
We need go no further. This litigation presents an array of complicated and important issues at a crossroads of the law that few courts have explored. The beacon by which we must steer is Congress's unmistakably clear mandate that educational institutions not use federal monies to perpetuate gender-based discrimination. At the same time, we must remain sensitive to the fact that suits of this genre implicate the discretion of universities to pursue their missions free from governmental interference and, in the bargain, to deploy increasingly scarce resources in the most advantageous way. These considerations, each of which is in service to desirable ends, are necessarily in tension in Title IX cases. Thus, there are unlikely to be ideal solutions to all the vexing problems that might potentially arise.
This appeal exemplifies many of the difficulties inherent in Title IX litigation. We do not presume to say that the district court's interim solution is perfect, but it is fair and it is lawful. On the record compiled to date, the preliminary injunction requiring Brown to reinstate its women's volleyball and gymnastics teams for the time being came well within the encincture of judicial discretion. We will not meddle.
34 C.F.R. § 106.41(a) (1992).
34 C.F.R. § 106.41(c) (1992).