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Kent State: No Gender Bias in Field Hockey Fiasco

Jason Scott

Officials at Kent State University found that there was “no evidence to suggest that gender was the basis or even a consideration in the decisions made” regarding the cancellation of a women’s field hockey contest between the University of Maine and Temple University on Kent State’s campus last month. 

The story began with a field hockey tournament hosted on the Kent State campus in early September. The UMaine and Temple game was scoreless and about to enter its second overtime period when Kent State athletics officials reportedly ended the contest without a result, citing fire marshal orders regarding a pregame fireworks display associated with a football game that was set to take place later in the day. The decision prompted harsh criticism from field hockey groups and women’s sports advocates across the country. The National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) issued a statement which read in part: “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.” 

That backlash led to both an apology from Kent State’s athletic director and to a university investigation. 

Related: Kent State AD Apologizes for Field Hockey Snafu

The university’s office of compliance, EOAA/Title IX issued a report following its investigation into the incident, which detailed the events leading up to the decision as well as the scope of the investigation in its aftermath. 

The report, which can be read in full here, says that coaches were made aware of a “hard stop” time of 10:30 a.m., months in advance of the field hockey event. The fireworks display was planned as part of the university’s family weekend. 

“The decision to end the game at 10:30 a.m. was made well in advance prior to the teams even arriving at Kent State to play. Email communications among the three coaches dating back to May 2019 substantiate that the visiting coaches were made aware that the area and the game needed to be cleared at 10:30 a.m. … Evidence substantiates that the game ultimately concluded due to the safety concerns and preparation involved in the launch of the football game fireworks,” the report reads. 

However, the report also detailed a similar scheduling conflict in 2016, but in that situation the pregame fireworks were canceled and the field hockey contest continued. 

Temple head coach Susan Ciufo told The Washington Post that the whole situation was “unfortunate,” and that “it’s kind of absurd this happened.”

“I know we’re not a big-revenue sport, but to make young women feel what they did for 70 minutes doesn’t really matter, what are we telling young female athletes about what it means to be an athlete?” Ciufo asked.

Meanwhile, Maine athletic director Ken Ralph told Cleveland.com that he was upset that the investigators didn’t speak with any of the affected student-athletes. 

“If they heard the stories of the women who were impacted, they might have a very different view of the damage done,” Ralph told Cleveland.com. “Kent State is writing this off to poor game management and that is too simplistic of a view to capture what really happened. The people most impacted by this were completely ignored in the report.” 

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