Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, June 28, 2002

Jill Nunokawa is a proponent of moving the girls basketball season in line with the mainland's.

Nunokawa still
pushing ‘opportunity’

[an error occurred while processing this directive] The compliance test

By Cindy Luis

Great strides have been made by the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, which offered four state tournaments for girls in 1972 and now offers 14.

art Opponents, however, say the changes haven't come far enough or fast enough. One major bone of contention is the playing of girls basketball in the spring, instead of in the winter, at the same time as the boys season.

Girls basketball isn't the only sport "out of season" according to the mainland school calendar. Girls and boys soccer, softball and boys volleyball are also not in alignment with most other states.

But girls basketball players are the ones who are losing out the most, according to the issue's most vocal crusader. Jill Nunokawa, a former University of Hawaii basketball player and a civil rights counselor at UH, wants the season moved in order to create more college scholarship opportunities for island females.

"One of the last things for me is to get the basketball season changed," said Nunokawa, who has pushed the issue even before helping start the Gender Equity Sports Club in 1994. "The good news is we are moving forward. People are at least cognizant of Title IX.

"I think it's a pretty simple issue to resolve. Move the girls varsity season to the same time as the boys varsity season, and move boys JV to spring with girls JV. I had hoped that this would be done voluntarily by the state association, but I think it will end up being forced compliance.

"We ought not to have to learn lessons through lawsuits."

Nunokawa, who is a lawyer, said the suit will likely be filed this fall. It claims that girls basketball players in Hawaii are being discriminated against because their spring season limits the opportunities to be scouted by college coaches as well as the ability to host national-caliber preseason tournaments along the lines of the Iolani Boys Prep Classic.

"Coaches who are friends have asked me about coming out here to play," said Nunokawa. "But when I tell then where the season is, they say it's too late.

"When the season is changed, Hawaii girls will be able to go to the Nike Classic (in April) where UH recruits for their players. When the season is changed, you'll see our young ladies helping raise the status of women's basketball. We're snubbed now for the NCAA Tournament because there's no respect for women's basketball outside of Hawaii and within Hawaii."

Nunokawa played for the Wahine under three different coaches (Milo Griffin, Jerry Busone and Bill Nepfel) from 1981 to 1985. She also began her officiating career, becoming the first female referee to officiate a girls state tournament game, the first in a boys state tournament and the first to be sanctioned at the Division I college level.

The 1981 Kaiser High School graduate said she feels lucky not to have been born when her brother was.

"He was the Class of '76 and the first girls state basketball tournament wasn't until 1977," she said. "At least I had the opportunity. It doesn't mean there was acceptance.

"I was always hearing, 'Girl, go home and cook rice.' If you wanted to play, you had to persevere."

Nunokawa's first organized sports were softball and soccer. In fact, she said she was in the first commercial when Meadow Gold started sponsoring AYSO.

She has noticed more acceptance of women in sports by younger generations.

"For young men like my nephew, it is not a rarity to have played in mixed youth leagues," she said. "It's not a phenomenon to have played with someone the caliber of a Nani Cockett. They grew up cheering in coed sports.

"For them, the attitude is not so biased. It's healthy."

Nunokawa is also one of the proponents of cutting football scholarships in order to help men's minor sports.

"When you look at who has the lion's share of the resources, it's football," she said. "We're beginning to see the 'Pay to Play' philosophy, where if you're sport makes money, like football, you get the benefits.

"People are beginning to wield Title IX like an ax to cut men's sports. Title IX is about equality and opportunity. The victims have become men's minor sports.

"The truth is not just football being the issue. It's the elite of one sport, the BCS schools, reaping incredible amounts of money to the detriment of the rest of college sports."

Nunokawa has been pushing hardest at the high-school level. She has become frustrated that cheerleading is considered a sport -- and had its first state championship this past spring -- while girls water polo, one of the fastest growing women's intercollegiate sports, hasn't been able to gain much outside of the ILH and the BIIF. (The OIA is beginning girls water polo this coming school year).

"I'm not getting paid to point out Title IX inequities," said Nunokawa. "My standard is fairness. I'm not the enforcer. I'm the reminder to comply and enforce federal law."


The test

A panel of federal judges in 1993, outlined what it took to be in compliance with Title IX at the collegiate level. It is a three-pronged test that is currently being applied at the high school level:

>> Females are given opportunities to participate in athletics proportionate to the overall enrollment of the student body.

>> Schools (or state athletic associations) show that the interest of females in athletics is being met by providing opportunities for them to compete, even if it is already being met by the enrollment proportion.

>> Schools (or state athletic associations) show that there is a real effort being made to reach compliance.

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