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Published: Tuesday, 12/18/2001

Changes ordered in Michigan high school calendar

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The Michigan high school athletic calendar may have to change.

United States Federal District Court Judge Richard Enslen ruled yesterday that girls sports must be scheduled on the same basis as boys sports beginning with the 2003-04 school year.

Enslen said he found that the policies violated the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment, the federal Title IX statute and Michigan civil rights law.

Enslen ordered the Michigan High School Athletic Association to submit a compliance plan to him by May 24. The judge said the plaintiffs will have until June 14 - or until 14 days after the plan is submitted, whichever comes first - to respond.

An attorney who represents the Michigan association said the organization plans to appeal within a month.

Yesterday's ruling means girls basketball, which traditionally has been played during the fall in Michigan, will take place during the winter along with the boys basketball season.

Volleyball, a winter sport in Michigan, will become a fall sport based upon Enslen's ruling that the current athletic schedule discriminates against female high school athletics. The ruling also will affect when girls soccer, tennis, golf and swimming will take place each school year.

Michigan is one of only a few states in which the girls compete in basketball during the fall and play volleyball during the winter, which is also currently opposite of when the college seasons take place.

Communities for Equity, the group which filed the suit, protested that the Michigan association's calendar affected college recruiting for girls basketball and volleyball and also resulted in limited news coverage for girls sports.

The ruling, which the association intends to appeal, comes three years after the suit was filed.

“It's not something the whole state wanted to do,'' Bedford athletic director Bill Regnier said. “We wanted to keep it as it was.''

Bedford girls basketball coach Amy Schrader said she was “shocked'' by the decision and never thought the current scheduling plan would be considered unacceptable. She thought tradition would win out in the end.

“Based on tradition you just get used to something being done a certain way,'' Schrader said. “Now this throws a monkey wrench in it.''

Monroe athletic director Butch Foster has his concerns should the ruling stand.

“I have a real issue with this if it affects all of the sports,'' Foster said. “Now if it's just switching girls basketball and volleyball that's fine with me.''

Foster said changing when certain girls sports will take place has raised concerns for a variety of reasons. A shortage of officials, coaches and even facilities to hold events for girls and boys events are the major issues.

Foster said scheduling the same sports for the girls and boys at the same time of the year will require the state to find more referees and officials to work at their events. It also will require some shrewd scheduling since many of the girls and boys teams will have to share the same gyms.

Furthermore, Foster said having the boys and girls playing soccer in the same season will lead to soccer fields taking a “beating'' from steady usage from doubling up the practices and games during a season.

“My biggest problem would be with swimming, soccer and tennis and that's because of the facilities issue,'' Foster said.

The ruling also may lead to some schools being faced with hiring new coaches since many of the coaches already assume more than one coaching job under the present calendar.

Schrader said it would affect the Mules coaching staff since the Bedford head boys basketball coach, Bill Ryan, also serves as the girls junior-varsity coach.

The present coaching situation at Adrian High also could be affected by the ruling. Adrian volleyball coach Mike Watkins coaches the women's volleyball team at Adrian College.

Six times since 1973, the MHSAA has surveyed its membership about realigning sports seasons. Each time, a large majority of schools said they opposed it.

In the most recent survey, (May 1998) more than 82 percent of the 573 schools that responded favored the current system.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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