Days after calling an end to a field hockey contest held on the campus of Kent State University before a victor was determined, the school’s athletic director, beset by criticism, has issued an apology.
The Temple University and University of Maine field hockey programs had just concluded their first overtime period in a scoreless game when Kent State administrators told the teams that the game had to stop in order to clear the way for a football pregame fireworks display.
Kent State had reportedly told the schools that a “hard stop” time of 10:30 a.m., as required by the fire marshall, in order to set off the fireworks display. However, that didn’t stop critics from responding harshly to the move, which some saw as disrespectful toward the field hockey players and women student-athletes in general.
The National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) weighed in Monday, issuing a statement that read in part:
“We have been informed that the decision to require the hard stop was solely due to fire marshall regulations as they apply to the fireworks that were to be part of the 12:00 p.m. football game. While we understand that the fireworks were deemed to be an important part of Kent State University's Family Weekend festivities which featured the home football contest, we cannot understand why the university would seemingly prioritize a daytime fireworks display over the completion of a Division I Women's Field Hockey contest. The optics and the messaging to every field hockey program and to every field hockey player are that while they matter, they don't matter more than pre-game football festivities. We see this as a terrible message being communicated to female student-athletes in this year of 2019. This decision was extremely damaging not only for the participating athletes, their coaches, and their families but for all female student-athletes.”
“We ask those in administrative and leadership positions at Kent State University to do some soul searching and to take responsibility for the lack of judgment and poor decision-making that was displayed on September 7,” the statement continued. “Putting pregame fireworks ahead of the completion of an NCAA Division I contest seems shortsighted at best and harmful to the development of female student-athletes at worst.”
The criticism did not fall on deaf ears, however, as the Record-Courier reports that Kent State athletic director Joel Nielsen issued an apology on Monday afternoon.
“On behalf of the Kent State University Athletic Department, I would like to apologize to the University of Maine and Temple University for the decisions made surrounding the Field Hockey contest this weekend,” Nielsen said in his apology statement. “In hindsight, a different decision should have been made to ultimately ensure the game reached its conclusion. We hold ourselves to a very high standard, and in this situation, we failed.”
Nielsen went on to say that he recognized the harm done by the decision, and that he hoped that Kent State would be able to assist the programs in completing the game per NCAA rules — including compensating the programs for additional costs incurred.