Kent State fireworks spark Title IX complaint

BY MERYL PHAIR ’21

Temple University and the University of Maine’s DI women’s field hockey teams competed on Saturday, Sept. 7 at Kent State University in a game that ended in a 0-0 score. After an overtime period, the teams were still locked in a tie.

Before play could enter a double overtime, Kent State officials informed coaches that the game was to be stopped immediately and both squads were ordered to leave the field. This was because of pregame fireworks set to go off before the men’s football game.

Fire marshal regulations required the teams to leave the field at 10:30 a.m. for the noon firework showing. Both colleges were informed of this last May but it was confirmed that no mention of this hard stop time was included in its written contract.

Additionally, Kent State did not communicate what would happen if the 9 a.m. game was still in play when fire marshal regulations went into effect. The field hockey coaches proposed both an early shootout and a shortened second overtime, but officials enforced the immediate ending of the game.

The incident has caused a point of contention between the teams involved and Kent State’s administration and raised concerns from members of the Mount Holyoke community.

“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 pregame football festivities,” said Andy Whitcomb, National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) President and head field hockey coach at Mount Holyoke in a press release posted on the NFHCA website on Sept. 9.

“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,” he said.

The press release outlines the facts that the NFHCA office gathered during the 48 hours following the “unfortunate circumstances.”

The University of Maine filed a Title IX complaint with Kent State University administrators the following week. Title IX legislation states that, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

“Title IX is great, but Title IX exists. The fact it has to exist for us to receive rights to be equal is self explanatory,” said University of Maine senior Riley Field in an article for Bangor Daily News.

The incident has impacted on student-athletes, who competed in the match, as well as those on other campuses.

“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,” said Kent State Athletic Director Joel Nielsen in a statement released to coaches and players on Monday. “I realize that my statement does not undo the negative impact on the student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans who deserve to see their teams compete in a full contest.”

Nielsen also added that Kent State has since “reviewed and altered our procedures to see that no student-athletes are faced with this situation in the future.”

In field hockey there are no tie games and as no resulting score was declared, the Sept. 7 game was classified as “no contest.” The NCAA field hockey committee has not reached a decision about the official outcome of the game but, in the case of a rematch, a full game would have to be played.