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Brown, attorneys reach settlement in women's sports fight

FILE - In this Sept. 25, 2019, file photo, people rest on grass while reading at Brown University in Providence, R.I. The university and attorneys for student-athletes, who challenged the Ivy League school's decision to reduce several women's varsity sports teams to club status, announced a proposed settlement Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 25, 2019, file photo, people rest on grass while reading at Brown University in Providence, R.I. The university and attorneys for student-athletes, who challenged the Ivy League school's decision to reduce several women's varsity sports teams to club status, announced a proposed settlement Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Brown University and attorneys for student-athletes who challenged the Ivy League school's decision to reduce several women’s varsity sports teams to club status announced a proposed settlement Thursday.

In addition to restoring the women’s equestrian and women’s fencing teams to varsity status, the sides also said that a 1998 legal agreement ensuring gender equity in varsity sports at Brown would end on Aug. 31, 2024. The school would still be subject to the federal Title IX law requiring equal opportunities for women in sports.

Until that date, the Providence, Rhode Island, school will continue to comply with the 1998 agreement’s maximum 2.25% difference between the percentage of female varsity athletes and full-time female undergraduates, and will not reduce the status of — or eliminate — any women’s varsity teams and will not add any new men’s varsity teams, the sides said in a joint statement.

The settlement is subject to the approval of a federal judge, which could come as early as next week.

Lynette Labinger, lead attorney for the student-athletes, called the proposed settlement bittersweet because they were not able to save all five women’s sports.

“But through our efforts and the overwhelming contributions and energy of the student-athletes, we have ensured that Brown will provide meaningful participation opportunities for more women athletes and not simply push numbers around on a page,” she said in a statement.

Brown announced in May it would reduce women’s varsity fencing, golf, squash, skiing and equestrian teams to club status in an effort to streamline its athletic department and make remaining teams more competitive.

Six men’s varsity sports were also cut, although track and cross country were later restored. Brown said it would add co-ed and women’s varsity sailing teams to maintain gender balance.