WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court refused yesterday to consider reinstating a lawsuit that accuses federal officials of discriminating against male athletes in enforcing equal opportunities for women.
Justices without comment rejected an appeal from the National Wrestling Coaches Association and other groups that have been fighting federal policies under the antidiscrimination law known as Title IX.
At issue for the court was whether the challengers showed that the law directly caused a reduction in men's sports and whether they should be allowed to sue federal officials.
The Supreme Court has indicated a special interest recently in Title IX, the 1972 law that bars sex discrimination in any educational program receiving federal funds.
In March, justices ruled 5-to-4 that a teacher or coach who claims sexual discrimination on behalf of others is protected from firing under the landmark law. That decision expands the scope of the law to protect whistleblowers as well as direct victims.
Then last month, the justices told a lower court to reconsider whether Michigan high schools discriminated against female athletes by scheduling their basketball and volleyball seasons during nontraditional times of the year.
The latest case involved claims that the government is forcing colleges to discriminate against male athletes because of a requirement that the ratio of male and female athletes be similar to the overall student population.
''If unchecked, the gender quota . . . will continue to cause sweeping injustices and discrimination in colleges nationwide, and is already being applied to public high schools," justices were told in a brief filed by the Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund.
Over the past two decades, the number of wrestling teams at NCAA schools has dropped from 363 to 222, while football teams increased from 497 to 619, according to the NCAA. Title IX has been blamed for part of the decline.
In addition to men's wrestling team cuts, other schools have dropped outdoor track, swimming programs, and ice hockey, the court was told.
A divided panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said that the lawsuit should have been filed against individual colleges that eliminated men's sports, not the federal government.
Title IX covers admissions, recruitment, course offerings, counseling, financial aid, student health, and student housing, as well as athletics.