Cuesta College could learn its Title IX fate this week.
The findings of a federal investigation into the Cougars athletic department’s compliance with the gender discrimination legislature will be delivered in the coming days, according to one of three people who filed the original complaint in early 2010.
Former Cuesta women’s tennis coach Mike Napoli — who filed along with former women’s tennis player Hannah Spencer and Title IX expert Diane Milutinovich — said he was informed by his attorney that the federal Office for Civil Rights is planning to release its report.
And Napoli expects the findings to include an official “plan of action.”
“I don’t know exactly what it’s going to entail,” Napoli said, “but I do know when you get a plan of action, it’s for being out of compliance.”
When reached Sunday, Cougars athletic director Bob Mariucci said he was personally unaware of any timeline for the findings to be sent.
Cuesta faced a similar plan of action in the early 1990s, when the department was also found out of compliance. Solutions then included the addition of women’s sports to the department and a pledge to follow accepted Title IX guidelines.
Enacted by Congress in 1972, Title IX forbids gender discrimination at schools that receive federal funds. In sports, the law has been interpreted to require equal opportunities for male and female athletes.
Napoli spoke out when the college decided to suspend the women’s tennis program amid a flurry of college-wide cuts to save an estimated $30,000 .
Napoli, who still teaches part time at Cuesta and will turn 60 in September, had recently retired from the team but said he offered to return as head coach when he heard about the school’s plan to end play for his program.
Cuesta went ahead with its suspension of the program, which has not been reinstated. That prompted Milutinovich, a former Fresno State administrator who settled a gender discrimination suit against the university and has since gone on to become a Title IX consultant, to investigate further.
Milutinovich said at the time that Cuesta did not satisfy any of the three court-approved tests for Title IX compliance and found that the college had not designated an official on-campus compliance coordinator, a position that is required to receive federal funding.
Cuesta officials said the women’s tennis suspension was one of many difficult but necessary cutbacks in the face of a severe budget crisis.
After helping Milutinovich crusade for women’s sports around the state over the past year, Napoli said he realizes the issue is much bigger than his single program.
“I tried to work through their framework with the Cuesta board of trustees and let them know that we were out of compliance,” Napoli said, “but they didn’t believe me.
“It’s no longer about me anymore. It’s about the athletic director, the dean, the president of the college and the board of trustees against the federal government.”
Napoli said that being perceived as a whistleblower hasn’t deterred him from being an activist for women’s sports, and after seeing his class load cut to one session a week, he doesn’t want to think he’s being retaliated against.
“I would hope not to experience it now,” Napoli said, “or in the future.”