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Judge keeps Peyton Manning reference in Title IX suit, doesn't transfer case

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- A judge has ruled that a reference to Peyton Manning can remain in a Title IX lawsuit filed against the University of Tennessee and that the case shouldn't be moved from Nashville to Knoxville.

U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger issued the ruling Tuesday.

The lawsuit filed in Nashville by eight unidentified women says Tennessee has violated Title IX regulations and created a "hostile sexual environment" through a policy of indifference toward assaults by athletes.

One paragraph mentions a sexual harassment complaint made by a Tennessee trainer in 1996 that included Manning, then the Volunteers quarterback.

Lawyers for the school said the Manning reference should be struck because of its "utter lack of relevance" to the lawsuit. They also had filed a separate motion to dismiss the case in its entirety due to it being in an improper venue or to move it from Nashville to Knoxville, where the university is located.

Plaintiffs said the Manning reference is "entirely relevant" to show the existence of a "hostile and discriminatory sexual environment."

The plaintiffs also said the motion to dismiss or move the case due to a lack of venue was "entirely without merit" and noted that all eight plaintiffs filed declarations saying that having the case in Nashville would be "more convenient, less expensive, and necessary to avoid the trauma and mental anguish" associated with having the trial in Knoxville.

In her ruling, Trauger said the university hasn't shown that the Manning reference "bears no possible relation to this action." Trauger also said that while it would be more convenient for school officials to have the case in Knoxville, "UT has not pointed to any evidence, aside from the distance between Knoxville and Nashville, to show that this inconvenience would be so significant as to tip the scales in favor of relocating this lawsuit."

"While we believe this case would be more properly heard in the Eastern District of Tennessee in Knoxville given the location of events alleged and the residency of a majority of witnesses, we've said before that this was a decision for the judge to make," Bill Ramsey, the lawyer for the school, said in a statement. "She has done so, and we will proceed in Nashville. The university is confident the truth will come out no matter where the case is heard."

David Randolph Smith, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, declined comment.

Trauger said she would reserve judgment on the school's motion to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim and to strike additional portions of the plaintiffs' complaint.