David Moltz: Who’s on first?

A sports conference that always scheduled weekday basketball doubleheaders in which women’s teams played the first game — letting the men play in the later time slot — has altered the practice, after an anonymous sex discrimination complaint charged that this made the women’s games appear to be a “warm-up” act for the men’s games.

Now, hoping to avoid possible gender equity suits, other athletic conferences are considering similar scheduling changes.

Last month, the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference announced that it would alternate from season to season the order in which men’s and women’s teams would play in doubleheaders. The men will play first this season, and the women will play first next season.

Dell Robinson, the conference commissioner, said the decision was made after the league received an inquiry in March from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. An anonymous complaint filed with the agency argued that the negative connotation conveyed by always having women’s teams play first in these doubleheaders was detrimental to women’s athletics.

Robinson did not identify the group that filed the complaint, but news briefs from the National Collegiate Athletic Association noted that it was filed by a “special interest group” in Grand Rapids, Mich., that “helped influence a similar decision the Michigan High School Athletic Association made a few years ago.”

Robinson said that he was not convinced that the civil rights office had jurisdiction over a conference as opposed to over each of its member institutions individually. But he said he had concluded that such qualms were “not worth the fight” and that he was doing what was best for his member colleges by getting rid of any potential gender equity issue.

Robinson noted that, in the past, women’s teams had always played first in such doubleheaders and that, in his opinion, this did not always mean one game was more important than another. Still, he said that his conference was taking a prudent stance.

Full story: News: Who’s on First? – Inside Higher Ed