The University of Washington listed Cassie McMaster as a member of its 2013 women’s rowing team. But McMaster says that not only has she never practiced with the team, she never even stepped into a boat.
Although McMaster didn’t contribute to the crew team on the water, the UW did benefit by counting McMaster on its official roster. Her name and others were used to help the school show compliance with Title IX, a federal law requiring schools to offer equal athletic opportunities for women and men.
A Seattle Times investigation found dozens of women who appear to have not been on the women’s rowing team but whom the UW counted as crew participants in reports to federal officials over the past several years. The Times spoke with eight of those women who, like McMaster, said they weren’t on the crew team and did not know that UW had counted them as a member until they’d been told as much by a reporter.
The discrepancies raise questions of whether UW athletic officials have artificially inflated the women’s crew roster to meet Title IX requirements and maintain federal funding.
Kristen Galles, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who specializes in Title IX lawsuits against universities, reviewed The Times’ findings and said it appears as if UW is “fraudulently fudging their numbers to make it look like they are closer to Title IX compliance.”
UW Athletic Director Jennifer Cohen, who stepped into the role last year, said she was unaware that there might be issues with roster reporting and was concerned by what The Times had found.
“I remember hearing that our participation numbers were absolutely spot on,” Cohen said in a January interview. “The fact that you are calling women, and they are saying that (they weren’t on the team), I can’t tell you how disturbed I am right now.”
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