Officials at Kent State University wanted fireworks. Well, they got them.

With the University of Maine and Temple University field hockey teams tied 0-0 heading into the second overtime of a neutral-site game at the Ohio school on Sept. 7, an administrator shocked everyone by clearing the field to make way for the staging of a football pre-game fireworks display.

However, the fireworks show — such as it was — was nothing compared to the response of the competitors who were wrongly denied the opportunity to finish their game.

Senior midfielder Riley Field, of Sidney and Messalonskee High School, called the move by Kent State officials “offensive and upsetting.” The National Field Hockey Coaches Association called it “unacceptable” and “extremely damaging.”

Temple Coach Susan Cuifo summed it up nicely, telling The Washington Post, “I know we’re not a big-revenue sport, but to make young women feel what they did for 70 minutes doesn’t really matter, what are we telling young female athletes about what it means to be a female athlete?”

By ending the game before its natural conclusion, Kent State officials were — whether they meant to or not — telling female athletes that the time and energy they had put into their own talents, their team and that particular game were not worth much. Not worth risking that a daytime fireworks display be a few minutes late, anyway.

When both schools agreed to the 9 a.m. game, it was understood it would end at 10:30 so that the field could be used to set off fireworks as part of the Family Weekend football game nearby.

So maybe administrators felt they were simply acting out the agreement when they ended the game at 10:30, after Temple and the 24th-ranked Black Bears had battled to a scoreless tie through regulation and one overtime. Maybe they were too focused on the football game and Family Weekend. Maybe the administrators would have done the same if it had been, say, a men’s soccer game.

Whatever the reason, there’s no excuse. It should have been obvious to any college athletics administrator, whether distracted by a football game or not, that clearing the field that day would be taken as a shot at women’s athletics. It was dismissive of their talents and their achievements. By putting a fireworks show above their game, Kent State’s actions diminished the women’s place in their respective universities, and in college athletics as a whole.

Unfortunately, it was nothing new for the athletes. “On one level, we should be shocked and surprised, but on another level it’s pretty sad it’s not shocking,” Field said at a press conference last week.

As if to prove Field’s point, the UMaine team has been met with sexist, condescending online comments for daring to ask that they be able to finish a game they started.

Women’s athletics has made tremendous strides since Title IX guaranteed equal opportunity between genders. Our high schools and colleges are clearly better for having female athletes, as is our society in general.

Still, too many people still think female athletes should not be taken seriously. Reality beats down that point of view every day, but actions like Kent State’s give it new life.

Kent State has apologized and promised to do better. That’s good — the university shouldn’t forget how they easily they shortchanged student-athletes. And for the sake of making real change, neither should anyone else.


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