At last, female athletes gain meaningful equity in Hawaii
LIKE LOTS of guys, I grew up reading the sports page, perusing the rest of the paper but intently reading the sports section. I continue that habit today. However, my interest in sports now has a professional and legal aspect to it as well.
For 13 years I have served as the NCAA compliance officer for Chaminade University. This past April, I was appointed to the NCAA's Minorities Opportunity and Interests Committee. Among its duties the MOIC develops and responds to opportunities that encourage diversity and ethnic minority and gender enhancement.
So when I saw Paul Honda's May 10 article in the Star-Bulletin's sports section, which reported that, starting next year, girls' basketball in Hawaii will be played during the traditional winter season, I naturally responded with an "it's about time." As Hawaii was the last state to let girls play during the traditional season, as a diversity advocate, athletic compliance officer and -- most important -- the father of a daughter, I felt I had to explain why this change is so important to Hawaii's female athletes.
With Hawaii's current nontraditional scheduling, the girls do not get to participate in the annual March Madness and the excitement and publicity surrounding this time when the rest of the country's high schools and colleges are participating in championship tournaments.
College recruiting is another consideration here, as NCAA regulations set the traditional winter basketball season as the time when colleges can observe and contact prospective college student-athletes. On top of all that, when the girls have to play at a different time from the boys it just does not seem right.
IN 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education ruled that separate but equal was not the law and that there would not be a second-class status based on race in the education of Americans. In 1972, Hawaii Rep. Patsy T. Mink co-authored the Education Amendments Act. That law included what we now refer to as Title IX or gender equity. In 1972, athletics and other co-curricular activities become a place where separate but equal regimes no longer would be tolerated. Currently, out of respect for its author, the official name of Title IX is the "Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act." And finally in 2007, girls in Hawaii no longer will have to wait until the boys are finished using the gym, as Hawaii becomes the last state in America to let girls play basketball during the regular winter season.
But the resources that are provided to these female student-athletes is another story, and not much has been said about how this situation will improve as a result of this switch to the winter schedule.
Reading Honda's article further, I saw that the U.S. Supreme Court had denied the appeal of the Michigan High School Athletic Association in its attempt to continue to run the girls' basketball season in the spring in a "separate but equal" fashion, I again responded with another "it's about time."
I RECALL an editorial from a couple of years ago on another part of Title IX, "Hawaii erred in joining foes of Title IX integrity" (Star-Bulletin, March 31, 2005). That editorial stated that "The ruling (Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education) protects the integrity of a law that has been vital in expanding opportunities for women and girls in sports, education and other activities."
Jackson v. Birmingham tested the scope of women's athletic rights. In that case the U.S. Supreme Court decided in favor of Roderick Jackson, an Alabama high school coach who was fired after he complained about unfair treatment of his girls' basketball team. The unfair treatment that the coach was asking to be remedied concerned the outdoor facilities that the team had to use for practice. All the coach was asking for was for the school district to provide his girls' team a regulation-size gym with basketball rims that weren't bent, just like the boys' team had.
Title IX has increased female participation in high school sports. When Title IX was enacted in 1972, one in 27 girls in high school participated in athletics. Now it's one in three! There has been an explosion in the number of athletic opportunities open to women and girls of all ages and levels of ability.
As we have become aware, the regulations for Title IX go beyond numerical equity in participation opportunities (proportionality). Title IX covers all aspects of school and college athletic programs under three components: accommodation of interests and abilities; athletic financial assistance; and other program areas. Financial assistance applies primarily to colleges and universities, but the other two components of the law apply to high schools.
Under the third component, school athletic programs must ensure equitable treatment in nine areas: equipment and supplies; games and practice time; travel and per diem; academic tutoring; coaching; facilities; medical and training facilities and services; publicity; and support services. As such, the membership of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association clearly will be under a legal mandate to provide equal facilities for next year's girls' basketball season.
THE SEASON switch will help girls beyond sports. Hawaii's prep scheduling has treated girls like second-class citizens affecting their self-image and academics as well as their opportunities in athletics without most people in Hawaii even realizing it. The switch also can help more girls to be recruited for college sports.
While it is true that we have come a long way since Title IX became law, we still have a long way to go. These are civil rights that are being addressed. Title IX opponents will bring up cost as a reason to go slow and not to expect too much too fast. But cost should not be a reason to delay or deny these basic rights. Providing girls the opportunity to play at the same time as the boys was always the right as well as the legal thing to do -- and "it's about time."
Wayne M. Tanna is a professor of accounting at Chaminade University in Honolulu.