ORONO – One of the reasons we watch sports is because they’re spontaneous. You never know which way the ball is going to bounce, who’s going to score the game-winning goal.
Saturday Maine and Temple field hockey experienced one of the weirdest happenings you’ll ever see, hear or read about. The unfortunate part is it didn’t happen during the game, it actually ended it prematurely.
As Maine and Temple were about to head into their second overtime period at Dix Stadium on Kent State’s campus, a Kent State administrator stopped the game.
Dix Stadium was being used for a fireworks celebration leading up to Kent State’s football game at 12 p.m. According to Maine field hockey senior, Riley Field, the field hockey game was stopped at 10:45 a.m.
It was ultimately decided the game would be ruled a “no contest,” meaning the game would not count.
“We ask those in administrative and leadership positions at Kent State University to do some soul searching and to take responsibility for the lack of judgment and poor decision-making that was displayed on September 7,” National Field Hockey Coaches Association President, Andy Whitcomb said in a statement.
“Putting pregame fireworks ahead of the completion of an NCAA Division I contest seems shortsighted at best and harmful to the development of female student-athletes at worst,” he added.
Kent State says the reason it stopped the game was due to fire marshall regulations as it pertains to the fireworks celebration.
The NFHCA added in its statement that both Maine and Temple were made aware of the 10:30 a.m. stoppage via email in May, but Kent State did not mention any solution if the hard stop were to occur.
The school did offer Temple, who was flying out Saturday night, the chance to restart the game at 5:30 p.m. and pay hotel costs. But, the Owls’ bus driver had maxed out his/her hours and was not able to transport the team.
Maine was slated to play Kent State Sunday at 11 a.m.
Black Bear head coach, Josette Babineau, and senior, Riley Field, both spoke at a press conference Monday in Orono. The two spoke with passion, humility and anger demanding for Kent State and athletic administrations as a whole to be better.
Two days after being told a pyrotechnic display was more important than her group of athletes, Josette Babineau went off.
“At the end of each game you can see visually how much of each player goes into the competition. Their eyes and bodies show the physical, mental and emotional drain for giving all of themselves to the outcome of the game, to their team and their school. That part was taken away from them Saturday and it left them feeling like their talent effort and sacrifice may not matter or is not valued,” Babineau said.
Senior Riley Field echoed those same sentiments on Monday and over the weekend on social media. She posted a video of the fireworks to Twitter, something she didn’t think twice about.
“I didn’t hesitate to put it on Twitter because you know just to show people who were like, “Are they sharing the field? What’s going on are there fireworks?” Field said.
“I’m like these are the facts right here, these are the fireworks, this is the reason we were kicked off the field. I think it was just important because the facts were getting confused and twisted,” Field said.
Field and UMaine’s tweets about the game went viral gaining attention from ESPN’s Jay Bilas, Yahoo Sports and several other major outlets.
“We need to do everything that we can here at UMaine to make sure that you never have to experience those feelings again. All those student athletes are invaluable to our university and standing up to treat people fairly should be the most important aspect of everything that we do. You’re [the players] efforts in handling this situation do matter and it is harder to stand up up to something as opposed to do nothing it took strength and courage to do so and for that we are proud of your [the players] representation of UMaine,” Babineau said about her players.
While they voiced their frustration with the Kent State administration, Field and Babineau had only praise for the Kent State field hockey team.
“Their [Kent State] entire team came over [postgame] they had a player make a statement a very emotional statement about how proud they were of our team for the social media attention they drew to help them and it was emotional,” Babineau said.
“Both teams were crying and hugging each other to support each other through the situation because even though Kent State wasn’t part of the game they were embarrassed by what happened because they invited both of us to be there that weekend to be able to play each other,” she added.
Temple and UMaine administration also sounded off on the incident.
“I am so very proud of the way our players, staff, coaches, and campus community have handled themselves in regards to this situation. I hope we can turn out a huge crowd in support of our team for their next home game this Friday at 3:00 pm against Boston University. They have proven at every turn they are worthy of your support and encouragement. Go Black Bears!” Ralph said in a statement.
“The circumstances that prevented the completion of our field hockey contest against Maine on Saturday are simply unacceptable and our student-athletes and coaches deserved better,” Temple Director of Athletics Patrick Kraft said in a statement.
Kent State was more subdued in its initial statement on Saturday saying, “we regret today’s game had to be stopped during overtime play per field guidelines as previously discussed. We recognize the hard work and dedication of all student-athletes. The safety of our community, including student-athletes and visitors is always our first consideration.”
Kent State Athletic director, Joel Nielson, released a statement Monday saying, “in hindsight, a different decision should have been made to ultimately ensure the game reached its conclusion. We hold ourselves to a very high standard, and in this situation, we failed.”
“I realize that my statement does not undo the negative impact on the student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans who deserve to see their teams compete in a full contest. Also, we let down the field hockey community and its supporters as a whole,” Nielson added.
Despite all the conversation about gender equality and Title IX, this still happened. Maine hopes its something that everyone can learn from.
Riley Field is not naive when it comes to gender inequality in sports.
“I think we were just shocked, it’s almost like it’s awful that I’m not surprised because we’re a women’s field hockey team field hockey is not a huge sport in America and we’re a women’s team. It’s like yea, it’s one of these moment’s again and it’s I think on one level we should be shocked and surprised but on another level it’s pretty sad that’s it’s not so shocking I guess,” Field said.
On the NCAA’s website it outlines gender equity as an area of emphasis and includes an excerpt of Title IX.
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance,” Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Kent State clearly violated Title IX by putting the fireworks celebration ahead of Maine’s game.
“I’m a UMaine Black Bear the first day that gives me the right to a locker room the right to the training room the right to practice time and ultimately to finish a game is 110 percent a right it’s not an opportunity,” Field said.
“You know Title IX is great but Title IX exists and that in itself shows the fact that Title IX has to exist for us to receive rights to be equal is self-explanatory I think,” she added.
Maine said its Title IX office has filed a complaint with Kent State’s Title IX office. Babineau said the NCAA reached out to UMaine Monday morning requesting more details regarding Saturday’s game.
A decision still needs to be made regarding the actual game itself. Field and Babineau have no desire to continue or replay the game against Temple, the NCAA field hockey committee will discuss and make a decision.