CINCINNATI, Ohio—As the University of Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Arena undergoes major renovations, the men’s and women’s basketball teams must find new venues for their home games.
The men’s team will call Northern Kentucky University's 9,000-seat BB&T Arena home. The women’s team? They’ll be playing at St. Ursula Academy, a local high school that Cincinnati.com estimates seats 1,000.
The Bearcats went 16-14 this past season, in what Cincinnati.com called their “most successful season in the past decade”. They also reported that head coach Jamelle Elliot said this decision was “out of her control,” and that the university did not give her a choice in where her team will tip-of the 2017 season.
Cincinnati.com went even further, interviewing Cheryl Cookie, an associate professor at Purdue and an expert on Title IX. Cooky told them that this treatment is against the law, and said that if a Title IX complaint were filed, the Department of Education would need to investigate UC.
"This is Title IX's origin story," Cooky told Cincinnati.com. "This type of treatment was what really motivated female athletes to make those kinds of complaints."
Some critics may claim that the women’s team is being relegated to a high school gym because of attendance, but that wouldn’t be accurate or legal. As Cincinnati.com pointed out, the Bearcats drew 4,000 fans when they played UConn at home this year, but average 827 per game.
And according to Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a civil rights lawyer who was also interviewed by Cincinnati.com, it is still illegal under Title IX for the university to say that the men’s program earned the right to a better facility through attendance and revenue, because it does not give the women a chance to develop an equal fan base.
UC Athletic Director Mike Bohn told Cincinnati.com he was mindful of Title IX when making the decision, but looking at it that way would be “misplaced.” He went on to say that “this move is what's best for the program and student-athletes.” The athletic department went on to say that TV schedules for the men also made the scheduling difficult.
In 2017, it is ridiculous that this is even an issue. Women’s collegiate basketball players devote four years, (sometimes longer) the same way men do. They spend hours conditioning, lifting, practicing, and watching film. They are putting in the same work. Why shouldn’t they at least be afforded the same stage as the men to showcase that work?
That being said, Cincinnati.com did clarify that the university can essentially give the women’s program more to make up for the fact that they will now be playing at a high school. That can include “additional media coverage, more game promotion and better travel accommodations.”
Regardless of compensation, the message this sends to fans is clear. You can tell women it’s important to work hard, and that hard work is necessary to get ahead in the game of basketball. But at the end of the day, even if women work hard enough to earn Division I college scholarships, there is still a chance they could end up playing in a high school gym.
Women’s basketball players work just as hard as their male counterparts. There is no reason they should be shoved away in a high school gym, solely because they are women. That kind of a treatment is disrespectful to not only women’s basketball, but the sport itself and all women athletes.