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ECU restores women’s sports teams under threat of lawsuit

East Carolina University is restoring two of its women’s teams cut last spring for budget problems compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, and paying more than $189,000 to avoid a gender discrimination lawsuit.

The announcement on Thursday followed word that athletes were threatening a lawsuit, news sources reported. In addition to restoring the women’s swimming and diving and women’s tennis teams, ECU is paying the money to an attorney’s office to avoid the litigation.

ECU also cut the men’s swimming and diving teams and men’s tennis teams last May, but those teams are not being restored, according to reports.

The school held closed-session board of trustees meetings on Dec. 6 amid an ultimatum by attorney Arthur H. Bryant of a class action lawsuit in federal court against ECU, The Daily Reflector of Greenville reported. Bryant, who said the settlement agreement prevents the need for class action, represented Pirate student-athletes from the eliminated teams.

ECU athletics director Jon Gilbert says the school expected to save about $2.6 million by eliminating the two women’s teams, and reinstating them will leave the department with about $1.2 million in savings.

He said ECU has no plans to add or cut any other sports at this time.

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