Strategies for Scheduling Equity

By Staff

Coaching Management, 13.3, March 2005,

When the topic of gender equity in athletics comes up, it usually concerns spending—on equipment, uniforms, travel, and the like. But an emerging area of Title IX application is scheduling. And perhaps more than other sports, high school basketball is at the center of this balancing act.

The issue boils down to a simple reality of scholastic basketball: There are certain prime nights and times for games, and in many places, they have historically gone to the boys’ teams. This means girls miss out on the chance to play before larger crowds, and they are sometimes relegated to playing a disproportionate number of their games on school nights. But a handful of state associations and local conferences are pushing their members to make scheduling more equitable.

There is more than one way to get there. Some conferences have schools play each other’s teams on the same night but at different sites—the girls’ team at one gym, the boys’ at the other. In some areas, traditional two-gender doubleheaders are continued, but the start times alternate to give girls’ teams more opportunities to play the later game, which generally draws a larger crowd.

Other leagues, however, must deal with long-standing traditions in scheduling that are more difficult to alter.
One such conference is the Northern Lakes League (NLL) in northwestern Ohio. The conference wanted to address scheduling equity in two areas: which nights the genders play and which gets the marquee late-game starting time.

In the past, NLL girls’ teams typically played on Tuesday and Thursday nights, while boys’ teams competed on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Freshman and j.v. teams played before the varsity contests of their gender.

The league’s solution was to set up a master schedule in which the boys and girls would each play the same number of Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday games. "With 14 games in the conference season, if there are games on Tuesday nights, the girls play four and the boys play four," says Mike Vannett, Athletic Director at Bowling Green High School, near Toledo. "If there are six Friday night games, the girls play six and the boys play six."

The league also experimented with bringing the teams together a couple of times a season. "We took two Friday nights within the season and scheduled them so that the varsity girls’ and the varsity boys’ teams played at the same site and against the same opponents," Vannett says. "The first Friday, the girls played first and the boys second. On the second Friday, the boys played first and the girls play second," Vannett says.

This did require some juggling of the lower-level teams, however. "For that first varsity doubleheader, on Thursday, we played the freshman boys at 5 o’clock, the j.v. boys at 6:30, and then the j.v. girls played the last game that night," says Vannett. "Then on Friday, the freshman girls played the first game, the varsity girls played second, and the varsity boys’ game was last."

"The girls draw pretty well anyway," continues Vannett, "but there were definitely more people at that Friday doubleheader because both the boys and the girls were playing. The girls’ reaction was positive."