Non-Traditional Seasons in Court

Fall girls' basketball is facing extinction.

By Staff

Athletic Management, 13.3, April/May 2001,

The TSSAA isn’t the only state association deep in the throes of litigation. The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) is fighting a suit that would force it to realign some of its playing seasons, including moving girls’ basketball from fall to winter and girls’ volleyball from winter to fall.

In 1998, two female student-athletes and a group called Communities for Equity filed a class action suit against the MHSAA. The suit accuses the MHSAA of discrimination by, among other things, requiring girls to play in “non-traditional” seasons, offering shorter seasons for girls’ sports than boys’, and providing inferior facilities for girls’ tournaments.

The MHSAA denies allegations of discrimination and says it schedules seasons based on when its schools want to play the sports. It also questions the wisdom of requiring high schools to follow the scheduling system used in collegiate sports.

“It’s a matter of college scholarships turning into the tail wagging the dog,” says John Johnson, MHSAA Communications Director. “It really violates one of the principals of what high schools sports are supposed to be all about. They’re supposed to be for the many who can play, not the few who can move to the so-called next level.”

The suit is slated for trial in August, although that date is subject to change based on the judge’s calendar. Since the suit was filed, a Michigan state representative has introduced a bill in the state legislature that would require public schools in the state offering a sport to both boys and girls to conduct their seasons simultaneously.

Michigan may soon be the lone state to offer girls’ basketball in the fall. South Dakota and Montana have already announced plans to switch to the traditional schedule for the 2002-2003 school year and North Dakota is considering doing the same. Hawaii plays girls’ basketball in the spring but faces threatened legal action to move the season to the winter.

The Virginia High School League (VHSL) currently holds girls’ basketball and volleyball competition in split seasons. The state’s smaller schools (A and AA) play girls’ basketball in the fall and volleyball in the winter, while the larger schools (AAA) play volleyball in the fall and girls’ basketball in the winter.

After losing a Title IX suit filed by several female student-athletes who saw their sport change seasons when their school was reclassified into a different division, the VHSL announced that it would modify the playing seasons so all schools would play volleyball in the fall and girls’ basketball in the winter beginning with the 2003-04 school year. This timetable coincides with the next planned reclassification of divisions and districts based on enrollments.