Women's Hoops Blog: March 2005

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better


Thursday, March 31, 2005

Stacey Dales-Schuman is preparing for the FF by drinking lots of dirty martinis. God, I knew I liked her.
Helen Wheelock previews the Final Four.
UConn beats you even when they don't beat you.

"It took so much focus," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said of the UConn game. "Then when we beat them, you don't have any time or chance to enjoy it. I didn't really understand it until how exhausted everybody felt."
The Times today called Rick Pitino "the first coach to take three college teams [Providence, Kentucky, and Louisville] to the Final Four."

Helen Wheelock wrote them and said: wrong! Sounds like they may print a correction.
Regional attendance figures from Paul --

Philadelphia, PA (11,769)
Sunday -- 5,317
Tuesday -- 6,452

Tempe, AZ (11,426)
Saturday -- 8,213
Monday -- 3,213

Chattanooga, TN (10,788)
Saturday -- 5,702
Monday -- 5,086

Kansas City, MO (5,618)
Sunday -- 3,143
Tuesday -- 2,475


Mary Jo had these thoughts on the media in those markets:
No question -- Philadelphia and Kansas City get A+.

Reporter Mel Greenberg at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Mechelle Voepel at the Kansas City Star did outstanding jobs in their coverage, setting up readers with well-researched features for their region's games.

Greenberg had, as expected, a piece on Pat Summitt, and even though Pat has been blanketed with coverage, Mel uncovered some new material. He's smart enough to gain quotes from Hall of Fame SID Debby Jennings one of the best in the business in providing info to the media.

Voepel has a solid commentary on Stanford's rivalry with Connecticut. She knows her history and she has a second story lamenting the absence of Kansas State in the games. This is a peg you have to make with your locals, something Greenberg did not have to do despite Temple's loss because Rutgers is close enough (60 miles) to be a home team.

And BeKnighted wrote in with a theory about why women's basketball fans won't show up to watch teams other than their own.
Maybe it's that many WCBB fans aren't sports fans first. I came to the game as someone who already liked sports, and so I want to see the good games regardless of who's playing, but I know a lot of people who came to the game through their local teams and don't really care about much else. It sort of reminds me of a friend of mine who was a fan of Bob Dernier, and who switched her allegiance from the Phillies to the Cubs when he changed teams. It seemed strange to me, but it made perfect sense to her. In the same way, I don't understand how you can be a big fan of a team, and learn a lot about other teams along the way, and not be a fan of the game, but it's obviously not that hard for other people.
Voepel stopped by NPR yesterday to talk about the tourney. You can listen here.
In today's Times, Jere Longman on Michigan State and how they got here. It all started with a big sleepover at Shimek's farm.

In the USA Today, Greg Boeck on Baylor and Mulkey-Robertson.
Tim Dahlberg at the AP wrote this article about how Annika doesn't get enough credit. The reason: "because women aren't big sports fans, and most men don't want to watch women's sports."
Cappie Pondexter tells Mel Greenberg the plan for next year: "We just have to get better."
This article about TCU's Sandora Irvin is a must-read! If you thought she was amazing before, wait until you read about her childhood and her family life...

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

TV ratings for the tournament so far: same as last year.

ESPN, which pays about $18 million a year for the rights, is happy. "The women's NCAA tournament is one of the most valuable properties on our air, and we wouldn't change a thing," exec Mark Shapiro said.
Coach Laimbeer watch: Pistons head coach Larry Brown is ill and may not return to the team. Bill would be a leading candidate to take over if Brown goes.
The Player of the Year awards are decided this week. Votes for the Wooden were due on Monday, and votes for the Wade and Naismith are due between now and the beginning of the Final Four. Here are the efficiency numbers for some of the candidates:

WNBA Efficiency Formula:

Irvin: 27.1
Davenport: 25.2
Wecker: 23.8
McCarville: 23.8
Young: 22.7
Augustus: 19.6
Currie: 18.6

ACC Efficiency Formula:

Irvin: 1.43
Davenport: 1.40
Wecker: 1.39
McCarville: 1.30
Young: 1.25
Augustus: 1.24
Currie: 1.16

Prouty Rating:

Davenport: 0.562
Young: 0.561
Augustus: 0.553
Wecker: 0.549
McCarville: 0.540
Irvin: 0.537
Currie: 0.527

I think it's a close call this year. I think you can make a legitimate case for any of these players, and possibly several others, including Latta, Pondexter, Earley, Ely, Haynie, Wiggins, and White.

In my heart, I would give it to:

Wecker, because she does everything, because she works harder than anyone, because she epitomizes everything that's great about women's basketball.

Or Currie, because she held her team together, because she led Duke to so many victories despite its weakened roster, because she put up great numbers despite terrible physical pain.

Or McCarville, because she led a top-20 team in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, and blocks, and because she's my girl.

As a predictive matter, Augustus is almost guaranteed to win, and I'm just fine with that. She is still playing, and most of the other candidates aren't.

Seimone's overall individual numbers aren't eye-popping. She's not as good a defender as most of the other candidates. Much of LSU's success is due to her great teammates, especially Johnson and Fowles.

But at the end of the day, she is still the key. When it comes to crunch time, scoring is the hardest thing -- good defense isn't as hard as good offense. The ability to create your own shot and score may be the greatest skill to have in basketball. Her classic move -- drive, pull up, hang in the air, hit the shot -- looks like Michael and Kobe. No one else does it as well as she does, and no one can stop it consistently.

As a scorer, she is simply unmatched, and she is beautiful to watch. She'll win the awards this year, and she deserves them.
Linda Greenhouse on the Jackson v. Birmingham case. George Vecsey on the man behind it.
There's still no real clarity on the Penn State situation. Yesterday's official statement was simply a slightly longer version of the previous statement. It still said nothing about the reason for the dismissals, nor did it address the contradictions between the school's official line and the players' statements.

Assistant SID Erin Whiteside told the Patriot-News:
Technically Jen Harris can come back. The way Rene looks at is that Penn State makes the commitment to the student-athlete and if a student-athlete asks for a release to pursue her options they are not making that commitment back to Penn State so she would not take them back.
Um.... I'm not sure what that means. But somehow, I doubt that Jen Harris can come back, "technically" or not.

We'll probably never know anything more unless the players speak out. And that seems unlikely.

"This is my last interview. This has become way too big and blown up," Jen Harris said yesterday. "Both sides of this story have been told. It doesn't make any sense to continue to go back and forth any longer. I've said exactly what happened."
Tennessee earned its 16th Final Four appearance by taking out Rutgers. It wasn't a pretty game, but the Vols were happy to take it. "It's fun to play, and no matter what kind of game just know that we can win it," said Shanno Zolman.

Rutgers, as Adrian Wojnarowski says, remains on the edge of the elite. Wait till next year, says Cappie, who was brilliant.

The foul disparity was large, 27 to 14, and UT went to the line 35 times compared to only 13 for Rutgers.

Some Rutgers fans, including Governor Codey and Senator Corzine, complained bitterly. Coach Stringer (to her credit) didn't say much. Cappie Pondexter said simply: "It's really frustrating, especially in a game of this magnitude."

I'm less concerned with arguing about last night's calls than with discussing the state of reffing generally. During the game, Doris made the point that women's basketball has elevated, and now it's time for the reffing to catch up.

There's something right about that; the reffing in women's hoops isn't where it should be. It's not a matter of "let 'em play" vs. "call the fouls." It's a matter of consistency, both within the 40 minutes of a game, and across the 30 games of a year.

A couple times at the refs' forum, I've seen threads about career paths, and they say that, relative to the men's game, it's much easier to get hired and to advance in the women's game. We have refs with less experience. The best refs go elsewhere.

If that's true, we should try to change it. I don't know if it's a matter of money or prestige or gender. I don't know what the solution is.

We should probably consider, however, that spending a lot of time screaming at the refs we have isn't likely to help anything.
Mighigan governor Jennifer Granholm did a nice thing by bringing her two basketball-playing daughters to KC to watch the Spartans, but she almost caused one of the worst jinxes in women's basketball history.

She was interviewed when MSU was up 11 with about 10 minutes left. She said things like "it's going great, we are so excited to reach the next level, we can't wait for next weekend when we'll be in Indy..."

The lead vanished almost immediately. Her political future teetered on the edge. If the Spartans lost, Granholm would surely and deservedly absorb the blame.... but they didn't.

Fan favorite Kristin Haynie was once again close to triple-double territory, with 20, 7, and 7. Shimek was huge. Bowen had a bad night, but she hit the back-breaker with 29 seconds left. "She is so clutch," said Roehrig.

The Final Four eluded Stanford again.

"We are just very disappointed with this outcome," said senior Kelley Suminski. "We thought we deserved to be in the Final Four. We had worked so hard and it's just so sad to have this happen."
From the mailbag:
Am wondering, do you think the rest of the TV audience reacts to Ann Meyers and Nancy Lieberman as if they were fingernails on a chalkboard? I am just astounded that they are still around, much less the premiere commentators for the women's game. Do you have any idea how to get feedback to ESPN?
Oh, Lettie, my friend, you obviously don't read the message boards or subscribe to the listserv. You are probably better for it.

If you want to give feedback to ESPN, you can try this web form; you can mail them at ESPN Plaza, Bristol, CT 06010; or you can call them at (860) 766-2236.

I note that complaints about commentators are not limited to women's basketball. NBA fans complain endlessly about Walton and Smith. Men's college fans complain endlessly about Packer and Vitale. Women's college fans complain endlessly about Annie and Nancy.

Ask the sociological questions: What is it that reproduces this dynamic across different basketball subcultures? Do we as fans just love feeling smarter than the TV experts? Do commentators wear out their welcome after awhile, so we are always praising the new guys (Lawson, Lobo, Van) and trashing the old guys? Do commentators, like refs, simply perform the cultural function of whipping boy?

Or are they really just objectively bad?

Many fans complain about fluff -- too much human interest stuff, not enough real basketball analysis.

I couldn't agree more. At the same time, we also have to recognize that as we get deeper into March, the game draws a bigger audience and more casual fans. We've all heard about Young's mom and Wiggins's dad and Haynie's 4000 calories ten times already, but the new casual fans probably haven't.

And the TV people seem to believe that casual fans like sappy, fluffy, human interest stories. This isn't true just for women's basketball (though it may be worse here -- gender stereotyping the audience, maybe?). It's also true for the Olympics, for the Masters, for the men's Final Four, and so on.
From the mailbag:
One comment: just because what you properly call "the right" takes certain positions (re Title IX, for example), doesn't mean that opponents to that position are on "the left." For example, to call The Womens Sports Foundation "the left" implies that it is other than a pretty mainstream organization. Supporting womens sports is anything but a left wing position these days. Ask all those Republican dads out there.
My friends Jim McCarthy and Eric McErlain might disagree about the WSF being mainstream, but I suppose you are right about Republican soccer dads. And conversely, I'm sure there are some people on the left who think that Title IX has been expanded too far beyond Congress's intent.

I use "the right" and "the left" as shorthand. Both are imprecise and probably inappropriate in some cases.
The folks at Google who run blogger have been in full meltdown mode lately. They were having problems, so tried an upgrade, but it failed, so they tried to undo it, but that failed.

The worst part is not the inability to create new posts but rather the inability to fix old ones. There's nothing worse than waking up in the morning and seeing a sentence like: "SMS bombed away from outside, hitting 17 of 25 from outside."

Talk about nails on the chalkboard...

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Tournament records by conference, through the Elite Eight:

SEC: 12-3
Big Ten: 9-4
ACC: 9-7
Big 12: 8-5
Pac-10: 8-5
Big East: 7-4
A-10: 2-3
CUSA: 1-4
Penn State has issued another statement about the 2 (3) released players. The school continues to say that Harris and Etienne "requested" release. It will not give any other detail, saying that it is "an internal team matter."
Tom at KTXR Springfield writes in with some good attendance news:
There were 6,704 fans at SMS Last night as the Lady Bears defeated Iowa, a team that was screwed out of the NCAA Tournament, by a score of 89-80. The game should be a sellout on Thursday (8,846 capacity) against West Virginia in the Championship game. The Lady Bears have hit 47 of 78 3's (60%) in four games in the WNIT. SMS is also 10 3's from breaking Villanova's national record for 3's in a season at 304. I know it's not the NCAA, but I hope you give this game some attention.
Yes, we've been woefully deficient at covering the NIT this year (as well as the D2 and D3 tournaments). Apologies for that.

In the NIT semis, West Virginia won a wild double OT game over Kentucky. Kentucky wasn't happy about the officiating. "I'm too mad to cry," said senior Sara Potts.

SMS bombed away, hitting 17 of 25 from outside. "We did a lot of good things tonight, but we couldn't contend with that great shooting," Iowa coach Bluder said.

And on Saturday, Washburn beat Seattle Pacific for the D2 crown. "It was just perfect," Lora Westling said. "I could only smile the last 5 minutes of the game, realizing not many people get to end their careers with a win."
The Women's Sports Foundation has come out with its response to the new Title IX rules.
This survey would create a presumption of compliance with Title IX, as long as the school did not recently drop a women's team or had a recent request for elevation of women's club sport to varsity status. Once the survey is administered, the burden of demonstrating compliance with Prong 3 would shift from the college or school to the athlete. In essence, the institution would enjoy a presumption of compliance, a difficult hurdle for an athlete to surmount.
It took the WSF awhile to respond to this thing, but its response is the most detailed and thorough critique yet produced from the left.

The WSF also argues that the new rules contravene both the 1979 rule and the 1996 clarification, which might mean that the OCR's action violated the APA (my own personal favorite issue).

Anyway, just read the whole thing.

Thanks to Roni for the heads up. Roni also had a partial change of heart about the whole Liberty thing. I think we've all gotten closer to the right track (thanks, brother).
The Supreme Court has ruled that Title IX protects whistleblowers who complain about discrimination.

Justice O'Connor provided the decisive swing vote in the 5-4 ruling.

For previous posts on the case, see here, here, here, and here.
On ESPN's absurdly auto-erotic reality game show "Dream Job," they often make a big deal about getting names right. Whenever a contestant mispronounces the six-syllable name of a minor Uruguayan soccer star, a judge will pounce and pontificate: "Getting the names right is essential to our credibility as TV journalists. Our anchors on SportsCenter never get it wrong."

SportsCenter has done a nice job the last few days showing highlights and even adding in a little analysis from SDS and Lisa. But --

It's "Pon-dexter," not "Poin-dexter."

Fowles is pronounced "Fouls," not "Foles."

Roehrig is pronounced "Roar-ig," not "Roar-ing" or "Roar-ick."

And can someone please ask Pam Ward to keep Rene Haynes and Kristin Haynie straight tonight? It's not that hard. Haynie is the point guard -- she's the one with lighter skin and cornrows. Use a mnenonic if needed.
LSU ended Duke's season and also Mo Currie's valiant, injury-hobbled career. Foul trouble mucked up the Devils' already thin lineup. And LSU is just too damn good.

"With basically only seven players, we had to go the last eight minutes with no subs," coach Goestenkors said. "Fatique was a factor. We needed our rotation."

As in the Minnesota game last year, Mistie Williams started off unstoppable, scoring 13 points in the first 12 minutes. As in the Minnesota game last year, Duke inexplicably failed to get her the ball the rest of the game.

LSU was sluggish at first, but then settled into the game plan -- Johnson penetrated, Augustus swished 15-footers, and Fowles dominated the paint.

"And that was the difference -- that and their All-Americans deciding to take over the game," coach Gail Goestenkors said.

Scholanda Hoston also did an excellent job on Currie. "My teammates did an excellent job of having my back," she said. "Even when I got beat, I looked and there was somebody there to help me. Even if I got a hand on it and I didn't come up with it, somebody was there to get it. My teammates really being there really helped with getting her frustrated and executing on defense."

"I think a game like this will help us," Augustus said. "We know we can play in the clutch situations now. We finished the game, which we didn't do in the Tennessee game."
Last night brought more bad attendance news. 3,213 for a regional championship. That's beyond disappointing.
Like North Carolina, Baylor is blessed with a roster of remarkably athletic women. Unlike North Carolina, Baylor played last night with a game plan and an actual half-court offense.

The Bears kept the Heels from running, and the Heels just couldn't score. Baylor punched its first-ever ticket to the Final Four.

"Coaches coach a lifetime and never reach a Final Four," Kim Mulkey-Robertson said. "Coaches have expectations sometimes and don't live up to it, and players are the same. For this basketball team to honestly do what we have done in five years, it just caught up with me. My excitement is tears of joy. There's no greater feeling in the world."

Erlana Larkins, UNC's leading scorer, was held to just six points. "We took away her game," Sophia Young said. "I think we got in her mind."

Ivory Latta was unable to run past Chelsea Whitaker for most of the night. Whitaker left with the win, but she wasn't too happy about Latta's flopping.
She flopped twice. I know when I charge, and I make it hurt if I am going to get a charge. She just flopped, and I guess that's what she thought she needed to do to win. And (the official) bit. She was laying on the floor like she just got her throat lacerated or something. I didn't touch that girl. I know when I foul and don't have a problem with it. But whatever. Who cares?
It was a disappointing end for UNC, whose late-season hot streak came to an abrupt end.

"There's not much to say," La'Tangela Atkinson said. "I'm just upset that we're going home. There's nothing that I can really say. I feel terrible because we're going home. I wish we were going to the Final Four, but it didn't work out that way."

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Penn State board has descended from the fifth (wrathful) to the sixth (heretical) circle of hell. I would say that things can't get any worse, but...
If you feel like expressing an opinion on Title IX, you can send your thoughts to:

OCR@ed.gov

(Hat tip, Robin.)

Speaking of expressing an opinion, I'm a little surprised that we haven't heard anything from the Women's Sports Foundation on this one. No press release, no statements in the media (that I've seen). Have they just said all there is to say? Have they decided to get less political? Or are they just slow?
The editorial board of the Penn State student paper demands an explanation: "silence is both irresponsible and an inexcusable condemnation of those three players."
The weekend games meant the elimination of eight teams and the conclusion of some wonderful college careers.

Ashley Battle won titles her first three years at UConn but couldn't add the fourth. "It's very difficult when you lose," she said. "Especially when it's a loss that ends your career at UConn. You don't want to see it end."

Katie Feenstra didn't do much against LSU, but her tournament performance certainly improved her draft status. "I really think she's 6-foot-9," Sylvia Fowles said.

Ashley Early was disappointed in her effort against Michigan State. "At the beginning of the second half, we came out flat — me in particular. Rushing shots, turnovers — I think that was the difference."

Cisti Greenwalt also had a sub-par performance in her final game; she contributed just six points and four rebounds. "There have been times when she's been a big factor for us, but sometimes against bigger, stronger people, we don't get the look that we want from her," coach Sharp said.

Deadeye shooter Caity Matter, smothered by Rutgers, went just 3 for 9. "We did not get open," she said. "We did not reverse the ball the way we wanted to."

Kylan Loney and the rest of the ASU senior class helped turn the program around. "The future is going to be amazing," she said. "I'm excited from where we came from to the things we did this year."

McCarville was sad to play her last game in the maroon and gold uniform. "I'm probably going to sleep in it tonight," she said. "I don't want to take it off."

When told that she could take comfort in knowing that she left the program in better shape than she found it, she laughed and said "that's not hard!"
John Niyo at the Detroit News wonders whether the empty seats at neutral sites are the inevitable price of progress.

The trouble is that progress isn't inevitable, and that the empty seats (seen on TV) may actually hurt the game. Much to my disappointment, it looks like fans won't show up for teams other than their own. It's a difficult problem for which there is no easy solution.

We shouldn't abandon the pod system after only one year of experimenting. But if the attendance situation doesn't improve in the next couple years, we may have to take a step backward to more home-court games.

In related news, David Vest at the AZ Republic rips local fans for not showing up.
Some UConn fans complain bitterly that Susan Borchardt showed a lack of class by taking a layup at the end, when the shot clock was off, and the Huskies had stopped fouling.

Borchardt is an awesome player and a Minnesota hometown hero. But as I said after the Duke-UNC game earlier this month, players in that situation should really just dribble out the clock. And coaches should instruct their teams accordingly.

It's not a big deal. It's just a small but worthwhile gesture of sportsmanship.
In non-hoops sporting news, Annika Sorenstam won the Nabisco this weekend tying Nancy Lopez's 27 year-old record of 5 consecutive tour wins. Annika finished 15 under for the weekend wining by 8 strokes. "This was one of my best weeks," Sorenstam said. "Not only was I hitting the ball well, but when I was driving, the lights were always green, and when I turned the radio on, I liked the song that was playing."
Conservative pundits have (so far) been slower to defend the administration's Title IX action than liberals have been to attack it. Over the weekend, however, the National Review's Kathryn Lopez had this piece published in a couple small papers.

Jonah Goldberg also mentioned the change in his recent Town Hall column.

Goldberg, normally a good and intellectually honest writer, played a little bit loose with the facts when he said that, under the old rules, "the only way a school could absolutely prove it was in compliance with 'Title IX' was to implement a rigid gender quota system for collegiate athletics, even if few women wanted to participate."

That's not true. Since 1979, the "three-prong test" has provided three different ways to comply; "strict proportionality," the first prong, is only one possible means of compliance.

Under the 1996 clarification, the first prong was the only prong described as a "safe harbor." That made some sense, since the first prong is a simple matter of numbers, while compliance by the other two prongs required a little more evidence, and a little more searching inquiry.

Title IX opponents have always seized on the "safe harbor" language to argue that "quotas" are the only way to comply. But in 1996, the OCR went out of its way to make clear that strict proportionality "only one of three alternative measures."

The OCR has repeatedly emphasized this point, as it did two years ago.
The transmittal letter accompanying the 1996 Clarification issued by the Department described only one of these three separate prongs - substantial proportionality - as a "safe harbor" for Title IX compliance. This led many schools to believe, erroneously, that they must take measures to ensure strict proportionality between the sexes. In fact, each of the three prongs of the test is an equally sufficient means of complying with Title IX, and no one prong is favored. The Department will continue to make clear, as it did in its 1996 Clarification, that “[i]nstitutions have flexibility in providing nondiscriminatory participation opportunities to their students, and OCR does not require quotas.”
And as pilight noted last week, 70% of schools already used the third "meeting interest" prong to achieve compliance.

The third prong may have been unnecessarily vague under Clinton's rules. Vagueness may have produced unnecessary litigation and unnecessarily high compliance costs. Clarification may have been a good idea.

But the third prong was at least clear enough that it was put to use by a majority of schools -- it was clear enough that most schools did not need to implement "strict proportionality" quotas. If schools could show that few women wanted to participate, by surveys or other measures, they could comply under the third prong. And 70% of schools did just that.

Claims like Goldberg's that a "rigid gender quota system" was the "only way to comply" under the old rules are uninformed or disingenuous.

UPDATE: Several people have written in to question my analysis. Goldberg, they say, is neither a good nor intellectually honest writer.
In this syndicated article, Voepel argues that the new format and "pod" system isn't working. At least not yet.
So lower attendance, no flurry of upsets ... what's the grade for the eight-site system? For this year, it isn't good. A "C" if we're being charitable. But, to be fair, a more accurate grade is "incomplete."

...everyone involved with the sport takes a "wait-and-see" attitude. Is women's basketball taking steps forward or just steps sideways? Has it been change for change sake? Or will the changes made so far and the ones coming really lead to substantially greater interest in the sport as a whole, instead of the majority of the fan base being linked to specific teams?
At Penn State, Jen Harris met with the assistant AD last Friday to see if there's any chance of a return. She was told no.

She says she still doesn't know the reason she was let go, but she also says, "I'm not asking for any reasons."
The Elite Eight has four 1 seeds, three 2 seeds, and a 3 seed. That doesn't suggest a whole lot of parity.

(The men's Eight, by contrast, had two 1 seeds, then one each of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 seeds. Plus... holy crap, the men's tournament has been one of the best ever.)

The fact that UConn isn't still around -- and that we'll have a different champion this year -- it itself a sort of parity, I guess.
Conference records in the Sweet Sixteen:

ACC: 2-0
SEC: 2-2
Big 12: 1-1
Big East: 1-1
Pac-10: 1-1
Big Ten: 1-2

Overall tournament records:

SEC: 10-3
ACC: 9-5
Big Ten: 8-4
Pac-10: 8-4
Big East: 7-3
Big 12: 7-5
A-10: 2-3
Conf USA: 1-4

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Coach Ceal Barry, in the New York Times, on what recruiting has become:
A slow, steady parade of college coaches winds its way from rental cars to the double-door entrance of an icy gym in Chicago. Dressed in crisp Nike shirts complete with tricolor college logo, cellphones strapped efficiently to waistbands, coaches acknowledge one another guardedly before dashing off quick text messages to who knows whom.

Inside, an argument ensues. A middle-aged man in charge of the event loudly explains: "It's still $350 for a tournament packet. It doesn't matter if your school has already purchased our scouting service." A young assistant coach slowly pulls out his checkbook, unsure whether he has been taken. He has been. He looks down, and slowly writes out a check to XYZ Girls' Hoops, pleading for a receipt before wading into a sea of folding chairs in the end zone of the third court. As he pages through his $350 program, he notices there are no jersey numbers or graduation years listed next to the players' names.

His stress level climbs as he realizes he has missed his home state's all-star team play in another gym 30 minutes away. He looks around, hoping no one else has realized his blunder. He is resigned to watching, with the rest of his colleagues, one of the few games in this tournament that has any prospective Division I players on the rosters. Two hundred Division I coaches crowd around one court, all pursuing the same seven players.
Louisiana Tech coach Kurt Budke is reportedly headed to Oklahoma State.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Pat Reusse is Minnesota's leading sports columnist -- on the Vikings, the Wolves, the Twins, and on women's basketball. In tomorrow's outstate edition of the Star-Tribune (sent to press before the game's conclusion), he has a column on the state of the game.

He says that women's basketball has progressed to the point where we should drop the talk of equality, womanhood, and role-modeling.
The greatest stride made for women's basketball this season came in the Big Ten tournament final, when McCarville went 1-for-17 and took some heat for it in the media and in calls to local sports talk shows.

She was unquestionably the reason the Gophers lost 55-49 to Michigan State. The fact people were willing to say that almost as loudly as if Vincent Grier had gone 1-for-17 for the men's team has to be considered progress....

These are athletes, not role models. You win, everyone celebrates. You lose, and everyone wants to know why. There's your equality.
In the city edition, written after the game, he goes after Baylor coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson:
Was it possible that Mulkey could shut up for a few seconds?

Not really.
John Ryan at the Mercury News takes a look at the issue of neutral sites and empty seats.

"We've got great fans," said Sue Donahoe, NCAA's VP of women's basketball. "But the majority of our fans are team fans. What we've got to work on is developing that fan from being a team fan to a fan of women's basketball who wants to see all the great teams."
Babcock on Coach Summitt and her devotion to the game.
Stacey Geyer on the Penn State situation: "Portland shouldn't believe that silence is the appropriate response. This is an ugly situation made worse in how its being handled."
As expected, Liberty didn't have the horses to compete with LSU. There's no shame in that.

Liberty's Cinderella run to the Sweet Sixteen provided a great story for the tournament, and it also provoked some spirited debate about difficult issues of religion, politics, sexual orientation, and tolerance. That sort of debate is healthy in a democratic society.

To those who say we should keep politics out of sports, I say: consider Jackie Robinson, Billy Jean King, and the Miracle on Ice. Sometimes it's more than just a game, and that's a good thing.

Finally, on a personal note, I am extremely proud of Liberty assistant Kelley Siemon Deyo, and old family friend. She is the most accomplished basketball player ever to come out of my high school, where she played with my sis April before heading to the Notre Dame to win a national championship. It's always great for an old fan like me to follow the career of a hometown hero like Kelley.

Friday, March 25, 2005

From my eldest brother, ordained minister, author, PhD student, and blogger, regarding my Liberty post:
Listen, I think that Liberty University is a blight on this planet and a huge boil on the ass of liberal democracy. It must be lanced.

However, I think you're being a little hard on the 18-22 year olds who play there; the chances are that they were socialized in places very similar to LU -- very strict homes and institutions, and it takes people a long time change their habits of mind and body when they've had such a strong socialization.

Conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists thrive in America, in large part, because they have fostered the false notion among their own people that they are persecuted. Showing contempt for those in that camp who are still in late adolescence will do nothing but reinforce those feelings of persecution when they are still at a malleable age, and that is sure to reify their fundamentalism. A better tactic than booing and epithet-hurling might be cheering and, dare I say, love. Well, the old word "charity" probably fits better here.

They aren't bad people, they're just brainwashed.
Maybe so. But aren't we all "just brainwashed"? I was brainwashed by my school to support gay rights just as the kids at Liberty are brainwashed to oppose them. We are all products of socialization. Beliefs, to a great extent, are caused, not chosen.

Having accepted that determinist conclusion, there may seem little reason to criticize or praise anyone's beliefs. Neither my support for gay rights nor anyone else's opposition has any moral worth; both are simply artifacts of a random process that kicked me into one political camp and the folks at Liberty into another.

And yet -- criticism and praise are themselves belief-causing agents. The world of women's basketball (teams, the media, internet message boards) is itself an institution of socialization. If we can mobilize that institution to work for change, we should. If we can apply social pressure to change beliefs, we should.

So what is the best way to cause change? Is it booing or cheering? Should we criticize and fight the other side, or should we try to love them and bring them gently into the fold? (These are the same questions that policymakers ask about Cuba and China. These are the same questions, no doubt, that evangelicals ask about gay people.)

I don't have any easy answer for those questions. Different tactics work best in different situations. Part of it depends on whether you are really trying to convince the folks at Liberty, or whether you are actually trying to ostracize and isolate them to lessen their influence. We will never convince Jerry Falwell, but by booing him, we may send an effective signal to some undecideds that if they wish to avoid censure, they should not join him.

It's indirect marketing. It's Durkheim.

But it is not certain to succeed. No particular tactic is. Some will choose to boo; some will choose to love. Each fan must decide for herself.
Carol Anne writes in to note that Liberty isn't the only Sweet Sixteen school with anti-gay policies.

Baylor's student handbook prescribes: "punishment for misconduct - which includes drinking, gambling, premarital sex, cohabitation, homosexuality and using weapons - rang[ing] from a reprimand to expulsion."
Falwell understands the importance of sports in promoting his mission. "There's two languages all young people in the world understand — sports and music," he says.
Miami has fired 17-year veteran coach Ferne Labati.

"I am absolutely in shock," Labati said. "This is a terrible way to leave the place you love. I'm so disappointed. You give a place your blood, sweat and tears, and this is how it ends? This is how it ends?"
Newsday columnist Johnette Howard calls the new Title IX rules "an outrage and a deceit."

The DNC argues that the Bush administration has done a "grave disservice not only to competitive collegiate athletics, but also to future generations of young American women."
Rene Portland, apparently not without a cruel sense of humor: "We're taking the high road." (Good god, I'd really hate to see what the low road looks like.)

And more from Harris.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Liberty's improbable run to the Sweet Sixteen has sparked some discussion about the tension between the school's politics and the women's basketball world.

In the email box today, I got this note from a former Liberty student:
So Ted, If the University of Colorado's women's team had made it as far as Liberty's would you have made the same smart ass comment about it being a mixed blessing? Given that their administration stands behind a faculty member, a man with no PH.D. who pretended to be a native American and referred to those who died at the World Trade center as little Eichmann's?
Well, listen, I think Ward Churchill is a pretty big jackass too. If I were stranded on a desert isle and forced to choose between life with Churchill and life with Falwell, I'd probably drown myself.

But the comparison of Liberty to Colorado doesn't make much sense. Falwell founded Liberty as a means to indoctrinate young people into his way of thinking. Churchill is just one nutty prof at UC. Liberty is self-consciously devoted to advancing a particular faith and a particular political agenda; it does not value diversity or pluralisim. Colorado is not devoted to a particular faith or political party; it seeks to accomodate a wide variety of viewpoints.

But (you may say) Colorado's stated commitment to diversity is a sham. It is just another leftist-secular school where conservative and Christian viewpoints are silenced.

I'm not sure that's true. I have several friends who went to Boulder, and they don't appear to have been indoctrinated into leftist radicalism. In fact, they spent most of their time skiing and doing coke; now they're all good Republicans.

But we can make it even simpler and boil it down to this: Colorado doesn't kick out conservatives and Christians. Liberty kicks out gay people (or at least "sexually active" gay people).

It is a school with explicit anti-gay policies and, by many reports, a nasty homophobic culture. It functions as the pedagogical arm of a large advocacy organization that works tirelessly to oppose gay rights and to cement gay apartheid. Falwell is a hideous man, and Liberty University -- in its anti-gay policies, culture, and teachings -- is a hideous institution.

So what are we to make of its women's basketball team? Must we assume that all of the players and coaches are homophobes and bigots?

No. I certainly believe (and hope) that not all Liberty students and employees agree with their school's stance on homosexuality. It's not fair to paint the players as irredeemable bigots just because they go to Falwell's school. The constant insults hurled at the Liberty team by women's basketball fans are tiresome, counterproductive, and frequently childish.

Yet at the same time, the players and coaches are all adults who have chosen to play and work at that school (and I wonder how anyone who cared a whit for gay rights could make that choice). By playing and working there, they support the institution. At some level, they deserve to be held accountable for pain caused by the institution they support.

In short, they as individuals are not immune from criticism.

Homophobia should be exposed and criticized. If this basketball tournament provides an opportunity for us to expose and criticize the homophobia at Liberty, we should take it. Cheering against Liberty is a legitimate, peaceful form of protest that you may (or may not) choose.

The players and coaches on Liberty's fine basketball team may find it unfair that they receive criticism rather than support from the women's basketball world. But like all of us, they at some point must stand up and be held accountable for their beliefs.

They should all be ashamed of their school's anti-gay policies and homophobic culture. If they disagree with those policies and if they oppose that culture, then they should speak out. Like all of us, they have an obligation to expose and criticize the evil in their midst. They have an obligation to work for change.

If, on the other hand, they support their school's policies and Falwell's politics, then I really have nothing to say to them. They have a right to their beliefs, and I have a right to criticize those beliefs. I will fight their cause in any way I can, and I will cheer against their basketball team.
It just gets weirder and more obscure at Penn State. The school today released a statement that said simply:
Reserve guards Jennifer Harris (Harrisburg, Pa.) and Lisa Etienne (Norwalk, Conn.) have requested and received a release from the Penn State women's basketball team. Under NCAA rules, the players are now allowed to speak with other schools regarding a transfer.Harris averaged 5.9 ppg and 1.7 rpg over two seasons for the Lady Lions. Etienne, a freshman, played in 10 games this year, averaging 3.9 minutes per contest, 0.5 ppg and 0.6 rpg.
Not mentioned was Amber Bland, whose status is "in limbo," according to Coach Portland.

Coach Portland denied that Harris and Etienne had been kicked off the team, but Harris says she wanted to stay.

"I can clear one thing up for you," said Harris. "I have not asked for a release. If it was up to me, I'd stay here. I'd still be here next year. But that's out of my control, I guess. It wasn't my decision to make."

In fact, Harris isn't even sure why she was kicked off. "Emotions were high, we'd just lost. Maybe [Portland] made the decision on a whim, just because everybody was so upset. I wouldn't really guess. All I can say is, from my opinion, it had nothing to do with my play on the court. Because in my opinion, my play was good. And it was nothing off the court -- no criminal activity, nothing with grades. I really don't know."

Coach Portland gave only one cryptic statement offering any glimmer of explanation. "The players who are here are dedicated and hard working," she said. "We have high expectations here at Penn State. We have standards. The majority of the kids here live up to them."
A little Title IX history:

The three-part test for compliance was first instituted in 1979. In 1996, the Clinton administration issued this clarification regarding the test. In 2003, after the commission did its work, the Bush administration issued this clarification.

And here is last Friday's clarification letter.

I'm still trying to understand how big last week's change is -- the news reporting has been particularly unhelpful in that regard, and it's not easy to sift through the propaganda statements from both sides. So taking a close look at these documents is the only way to know.

My tentative sense right now is that the biggest change has nothing to do with the surveys. Rather, the big change is that while the old policy essentially put the burden of showing compliance on schools, the new policy puts the burden of showing noncompliance on women. Further, it erects a high standard for showing noncompliance.

It will take some more work and some closer reading to sort this out. In the mean time, if you're interested in some of the technical stuff, see the debate going on in comments at Off Wing.
Graham Hays names five players to watch in the Sweet 16: Feenstra, Zolman, Pondexter, Haynie, and Humphrey.
We have a couple days till the women get going again. If you can't do without the hoops, you can check in on the men's action (I know, I know... it's crazy. But just give it a shot).

I'd recommend paying particular attention to Illinois guard Dee Brown, probably the fastest basketball player on the planet. The Illini play UWM tonight at 7:30 ET.

And tomorrow night, don't miss Utah's soph sensation Andrew Bogut. He's seven feet tall. He's cut. He has McCarville-like passing skills and hands. He has post moves. He has some range. He's pretty amazing to watch, and you may be hearing his name a lot for the next 20 years.

In the alternative, check out the golf, and see Annika go for her fifth straight win.
Folks on the left have criticized the new Title IX guidelines because, they say, surveys are a bad way to measure compliance.

Many, like Greg, have answered: "if you have enough of an interest to play a varsity sport, you also should be able to answer and return a survey."

At first blush, that seems reasonable enough... but consider the following story from Brennan's column this morning:
Cary Groth, the athletics director at Nevada-Reno, was another of the 15 Title IX commissioners. She recounted a story from the commission hearings that she said was "staggering." The Illinois high school athletic association said it sent out surveys asking girls if they would be interested in playing volleyball. The surveys came back showing little or no interest in the sport. Lacking confidence in their own abilities, perhaps, and never having played the sport before, the girls by a resounding margin said, no, they didn't have any interest in volleyball.

But the athletic association, seeking more opportunities for female athletes, took it upon itself nonetheless to start volleyball for high school girls in Illinois. And, wouldn't you know, volleyball became one of the state's most popular girls sports, with more than 300 high school teams in the state.

"If they had judged by the survey," Groth said, "they would have thought there was no interest."
This is what people mean when they say that current interest levels reflected in surveys may themselves be a legacy of discrimination. This point isn't unique to Title IX -- it's just a species of the chicken-and-egg problems that we always face in discussions of affirmative action (and Title IX is, after all, an affirmative action program).

It's a debate that raises some complicated theoretical and empirical questions about which reasonable people can disagree. But simply saying "if no one answers the survey, there's no interest" isn't enough.

UPDATE: Greg responds, saying there's a difference between surveying high school girls and surveying college women. He also takes a look at the shifting burden of proof, a change that may be more important than anything about surveys.
The Title IX debate grows.

Christine Brennan weighs in and trashes the Bush administration.

Julie Foudy, a member of the president's now-disbanded commission, is flummoxed. "I can hear it now," she said. "'We lost a women's team because the e-mail survey got stuck in my spam folder for six months.'"

Senator Hilary Clinton is urging the administration to reconsider. (And who has more influence with Bush than Hilary?)

The LA Times and the Washington Post each publish their first article on the new rules.

In the Times, the DOE takes a new tack and argues that the new rules really actually strengthen Title IX. If anything, said James Manning, who oversees the OCR, the government "is raising the bar for using surveys."

In the Post, the DOE explains why it made the change without public comment: spokeswoman Susan Aspey said public consultation was "not required" as "this is not a policy change."

Hmmmm... doesn't the APA require notice and an opportunity for public comment before a federal agency enacts a proposed rule? Is that why the DOE is so insistent that this isn't really a new rule?

I think I smell a litigation strategy here...

UPDATE: The APA requires notice and comment for rulemaking by federal agencies. The issuance of mere "interpretive rules," however, is exempted from the requirement.

Agencies want to avoid scrutiny and cost, so they call decisions "interpretive rules." Adverse parties want a voice and want to slow things down, so they call the decisions "legislative rules." Litigation ensues.

As Judge Posner has said,
Distinguishing between a "legislative" rule, to which the notice and comment provisions of the Act apply, and an interpretive rule, to which these provisions do not apply, is often very difficult--and often very important to regulated firms, the public, and the agency.
I really don't know which side of the line the recent decision falls on. I'll try to do a little research later today to figure it out.

Also, over in comments at Off Wing, Jim McCarthy (who is intimately involved with this issue) says that Myles Brand and the NWLC are being hypocritical by complaining that they were excluded from the debate. "What’s especially galling about the NWLC’s complaint that the clarification was done behind closed doors is that that’s exactly how the three part test was implemented in the first place."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Greg at the Sports Law Blog has more. And at the Volokh Conspiracy, Juan has some thoughts.
The LA Times on Candice Wiggins and her father. "I want people to know the kind of person he was," Candice says, "that he was a good father…. I wish people could see."
Headed to the Sweet Sixteen and playing at home, ASU is pumped. Playing the late-night game doesn't bother anyone. "There was not one call complaining," said assistant AD Lyn Music. "Everyone is just so ecstatic. Time is not the central issue with this."

ESPN put the local game second. Why?
The reason to keep a local crowd waiting until the second game is simple: Networks are afraid that the majority of those fans would leave, and they don't like to televise games in empty arenas.
Ann Killion at the Merc News digs up the old feud between Geno and Tara VanDerveer. TV says it's over because Geno has now moved on to other things. "Geno and Pat, in some ways, operate in a more egotistical world," she said. "It's different than how it is out here. They're jockeying for who's No. 1."
The editorial board of the Philly Inquirer heaps praise on Dawn Staley.
In her five years at Temple, Staley has engendered loyalty and discipline from her players, which has translated to success on the court. They've brought pride to a school tarnished by other scandals this year, including the erratic behavior of men's basketball coach John Chaney.
Staley today gets mentioned as a candidate for the Alabama job. Michelle Smith pours some water on the excitement of Cal Bears fans who hope Staley will head west. "Staley has done a great job building the Temple program in the past four years and is a Philadelphia native with strong family and sentimental ties to her hometown."
According to Penn State's student paper, Rene Portland told the three dismissed players "that they would be best suited to find other programs in which to play."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Pod attendance rankings from Paul, based on published box scores:

Knoxville, TN (32,864)
Sunday 1 -- 9,142
Sunday 2 -- 10,534
Tuesday -- 13,188

Minneapolis, MN (28,765)
Saturday 1 -- 7,410
Saturday 2 -- 11,312
Monday -- 10,043

Storrs, CT (19,214)
Sunday 1 -- 6,167
Sunday 2 -- 6,238
Tuesday -- 6,809

Dallas, TX (16,690)
Saturday 1 -- 4,766
Saturday 2 -- 6,488
Monday -- 5,436

College Park, MD (12,312)
Sunday 1 -- 4,483
Sunday 2 -- 3,767
Tuesday -- 4,062

Seattle, WA (9,307)
Saturday 1 -- 3,094
Saturday 2 -- 3,203
Monday -- 3,010

Chapel Hill, NC (8,965)
Sunday 1 -- 2,511
Sunday 2 -- 2,788
Tuesday -- 3,666

Fresno, CA (7,459)
Saturday 1 -- 2,108
Saturday 2 -- 2,768
Monday -- 2,583

The folks at Fresno State called their crowds "a little disappointing."

Overall, the numbers aren't great, and most of the televised games showed tons of empty seats. Women's basketball games at neutral sites are still a tough sell.

Mary Jo writes in to note the importance of the local media in turning out good crowds. She took a look at the reporting in the eight markets and gave "high marks to newspapers in or near Dallas, Minneapolis, Seattle, College Park, Knoxville and Storrs. They all had fresh stories with a byline I recognize."

Here, the Star-Trib was excellent -- it sent not only Michael Rand but two other beat reporters to the games (plus columnist Pat Reusse) and produced byline reports on all of the games, not just the Gopher games.
The WNIT produced a minor spat between Illinois coach Teresa Grentz and Indiana State coach Jim Wiedie. It's all a little vague. Wiedie apparently thought that Illinois slighted Terre Haute; Grentz gave a strange rambling response that ended in: "I'm an Olympic person and a Hall of Famer. I should be treated a little better."
The Vols won. Coach Summitt got her 880th win and passed Dean Smith's total. It was a great moment for the women's basketball. UT celebrated the accomplishment with a great honor: it will name Thompson-Boling court "The Summitt."

The accolades rain down across the country.

Ailene Voison: "For the moment, Summitt, 52, is alone on the stage, if well within her comfort zone; she has been alone at the top most of her life."

Pokey Chatman: "I can't get enough of seeing what this lady has done."

Mechelle Voepel: "what I always think about with Summitt's unbelievable career is how many games her team has won where you thought, 'Nah, not this time, Tennessee. You're walking the plank. The guillotine's dropping. You're hitting the canvas. You're going to LOSE!'"

Nancy Lieberman: "one thing we know for sure is that no matter how long she stays on the sideline, Summitt will keep changing as the game continues to evolve."

Maria Cornelius: "Atop the summit. Sum it up. Pat at the pinnacle. However you want to say it, Pat Summitt is now the winningest basketball coach in NCAA history."

Amidst the praise, there has been some ESPN-manufactured debate -- at SportsNation, on PTI and SportsCenter -- about whether Coach Summitt's number really compares to Coach Smith's given the differences in the men's and women's game. (Some, like Chipper, make a good case that Pat's accomplishment is actually greater.)

That debate doesn't interest me very much. Maybe it's true that comparing Summitt to Smith is comparing apples to oranges, and therefore that 880 is no more significant than any other win.

So what? We aren't celebrating the completion of a mathematical proof that Pat's better than Dean. We are celebrating the career accomplishments of a pioneer -- we are celebrating the life of one of the most important figures in the history of women's sports. The celebration is deserved no matter when it happens. We should do it now at 880. We should do it again at 1000. And we should do it again when Pat finally walks off the court.

The number 880 isn't what matters. What matters is the effect that Pat Head Summitt has had on women's basketball and the world of sport.

Pat has received the recent attention with grace and class. She has used it as an opportunity to showcase her team, her school, and the game. And you can tell from her own words and her own reaction that her team, her school, and the game matter much more to her than the number 880.

ESPN cares about flashy stories. 880 and "Pat tops Dean" are nice hooks; they provide a good structure for short TV features, web polls, and arguments. 880 matters a great deal to ESPN.

Pat has a different sense of priority. She is committed to something larger (which is part of why she accommodates ESPN). You could see this commitment on her face last night as the last seconds ticked off and the buzzer sounded.

The Vols were way up as the game wound down. Before the game ended, a line of people began to make their way over to offer congratulatory hugs. Pat only half-embraced, because she was still focused on the game.

A few players made a few meaningless final plays in the final seconds. Gearlds stole the ball, shot and missed a three, Hornbuckle rebounded and ran back up court, launched a 50-footer, probably after the buzzer.

No one paid attention to the action on the court. No one but Pat.

As the throng surrounded her to begin the celebration, she wouldn't leave the game. On TV, as someone embraced her, you could see Pat's eyes following Hornbuckle's shot through the air, off the backboard, to the ground. To Pat at that moment, the after-the-buzzer no-chance shot in an already-decided game was more important than the commencement of the celebration in her honor.

That speaks volumes.
Rumors now confirmed -- Rene Portland has kicked Jenn Harris, Lisa Etienne, and Amber Bland off the Penn State team. The reason for the decision is unclear, but the best guess right now is that Rene just didn't think they were playing well enough.

"I'm lost. I didn't see this coming," said Etienne.
Liberty shocks the world.

The most surprising part of the game was that the Flames did so well with Feenstra on the bench. Coach Green resisted the temptation to put her back in: ""My mind was made up. Get behind me Satan because she ain't going in. I wanted to save her for 20 minutes of the second half."

Upsets are great for the game, right? We should be happy that a 13 seed made the Sweet Sixteen, right?

Well... given the politics of the school and its founder, Liberty's advance is a mixed blessing for many women's basketball fans. They can take heart knowing Sylvia Fowles is on the case.
More Title IX news today, as advocates and administrators pore over the new rules and offer widely varying assessments of their significance.

NCAA president Miles Brand came out against the new rules. He also questioned the shady way that the DOE went about making them. "The department issued its clarification without benefit of public discussion and input," he said.

In the Times' report this morning, the DOE continues to insist that the new rules represent "no change in policy." Marcia Greenberger of the NWLC disagrees (in hilarious fashion):
The new guidance changes the whole landscape. It's like you have three ways to comply, and first is to really comply by giving equal opportunities, and the second way is to keep trying, and the third way is to call your mother every week and tell her you love women's sports. They've made the third test so easy to comply with and so undemanding, and then set up the presumption that if you do the window-dressing efforts they call for, the government will presume you are in compliance and not investigate.
President Bush's blog gloats: "if feminists are upset, then we're doing the right thing."

In the mailbag, Pilight offers his thoughts:
I think it's much ado about nothing. If anything, it makes Title IX more enforceable. As it is, the great majority of schools, nearly 70%, use the third prong to show compliance with the statute. Previously, there was no standard methodology for determining compliance by meeting interest. Schools could, and did, claim the interests of the underrepresented were met simply because nobody expressed it to them. Under the new rules, schools using the third prong are required to survey the student body to determine interest and do it in a proscribed, consistent manner. If they don't use the government's Model Survey they lose the presumption that they are in compliance. The rules themselves state that "schools must administer the census in a manner that is designed to generate high response rates". If a school isn't getting high response rates, you can bet that the DOE will be telling them to change the way they administrate it or the school will find itself hip deep in lawyers. The standard form will make it easier to force school administrators to add sports for underrepresented genders. An organized effort to get Model Survey responses would be a whole lot easier than getting verifiable signatures on a petition or the like.

As for conservatives and anti-feminists, well they're beating the hell out of that straw man. Schools have never been required to show proportionality and it's always been the least used prong for compliance. Interest in college wrestling was already on the decline before Title IX was enacted and the slide has only accelerated. The eliminated programs almost certainly would have been eliminated anyway, some people just like to have someone or something besides themselves to blame.
Dawn Staley's Owls fell to Rutgers.

Will Staley return to Temple next year? She's probably the hottest coaching commodity in the country.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Conference results for Round Two:

SEC: 4-0
Big Ten: 3-1
Big 12: 2-2
Big East: 2-2
ACC: 2-3
Pac-10: 2-3
Conf USA: 0-1
MWC: 0-1
A-10: 0-2
More on the recent Title IX developments:

Greg at Sports Law Blog says "bring on the debate." He goes on to offer some good, neutral thoughts.

Inside Higher Ed calls it a "big change" and notes that it was made "without hearings or publicity."

Kathy Kiely at USA Today got a quote from someone at DOE, who downplayed the significance of the new rules. "This is simply an additional clarification. This is not a new way of doing business," said James Manning. "We're trying to help schools."

As I said yesterday, I really don't know much about Title IX (and I'd love to hear from people who do). It's possible that the new guidelines really don't change much. It's also possible that they are a big deal, but the DOE is lying so it can bury the story and avoid any public opposition.

The fact that conservatives and anti-feminists around the country are cheering the change as a substantial victory lends some support to the latter hypothesis. Of course, people cheer symbolic victories as well as substantive ones.

UPDATE: Helen points to the WSF's page for a bunch of position papers and other info. Sue has a reminder about what life was like before Title IX.
At Page 2, Scoop Jackson on the women's game.
It seems that in women's college basketball, the stories begin earlier and end up greater. Gotta start catching 'em from the get, see them while they're being born. See them when their tournament starts, when their brackets start to bust. It's a beautiful thang. Too bad too many of you all miss it.
Keegan analyzes the Holdsclaw trade, and the other deals that the Mystics turned down.
Betty Bean on Coach Summitt's involvement in a lawsuit that helped change the face of girls' sports.
(Ted just beat me to the punch recapping our night, but oh well, I guess you will all have to read about it twice!)

Ted and I were lucky enough to be at Williams Arena last night to see the MSU vs. USC game and the Gophers vs. Virginia. It was an amazing night of basketball! I had been a little disapointed in the quality of the tourney games so far--they all seemed to be boring blow outs. Last night, however, I certainly got the excitement I was looking for.

I wasn't really expecting the USC to be able to hang with MSU. I thought we might end up chatting about Trojan war as the Lady Spartans ran the Women of Troy off the floor (by the way, Ted, I was right Helen was taken from Sparta to Troy by Paris), but I was dead wrong! What a treat of a game to watch. I wish USC would have had the presence of mind to call a timeout at the end of the game and get a play set, but I am sure the screaming crowd probably rattled them.

In addition to being pleased with the games, I was so impressed with the crowd. The place was packed by half-time of the first game and people were going crazy for the USC and MSU teams. It was great to see!
Yesterday was a day I had dreaded for a long time. I knew it would come, but hoped it wouldn't. It was the last time that I would ever put on my #4 jersey, head down to Williams, and watch Janel McCarville play basketball as a Minnesota Gopher.

It was a perfect night, but still a sad one for a nostalgic fan like me.

The first game was a true March classic. Neutral floor, large crowd. Close the whole way. Seven lead changes and two ties in the final five minutes. An amazing clutch performance by a heroic player down the stretch. And a wild finish. Despite the mistake at the end, USC was fabulous. Coach Trakh was deservedly proud.

The second game felt like last year: frenzied, nervous, furious, and finally ecstatic; the combined adrenaline of athletes and fans that a sports junkie like me lives for but only gets to experience once in a long while.

McCarville changed the entire game with a single play. Not a bucket or an assist or a block, but a blind half-court pick. LaTonya Blue went to the floor, then out of the game. Minnesota went on a 10-0 run, opening a big lead.

Coach Ryan admitted that it was "probably" legal and that Janel hadn't done anything wrong. After the play, she told her players that they have to call it out. A couple said: "we did." It was just too loud to hear.

"It was nothing personal," McCarville said. "She already had gotten a couple of rips and took it the whole distance for layups. If they know someone might be standing there, they might not pressure our point guard as well."

After that play, it was all over but the cheering and the goodbyes. Goodbye to a player who held up the house that Whalen built, to a player who brought both anger and humor to the Barn's raised floor, to a player who won games and filled the bleachers.

And now it's time to get a #33 jersey.
Kendra Wecker had the greatest performance of the tournament last night, but Vandy won the game. Thus ended a remarkable college career.

"She was extraordinary," coach Patterson said. “You couldn't have asked her to do more."

"Kendra was incredible," Laurie Koehn said. "I look at what she did and I feel so bad that I didn't do something more to help us out there."

The idiots at Naismith who didn't put Wecker on the list of finalists for Player of the Year should be locked in a room and forced to watch that game.
Susan O'Malley on trading Holdsclaw: "When she asked us to consider trading her for a fresh start, we felt it was best for everyone to honor that request."

Mique's agent, Lon Babby: "After we analyzed the situation we concluded that it was probably best for both sides that we turn the page and give her a chance to start fresh somewhere else. She is excited at the prospect of competing on a team that has an absolutely legitimate chance to win championships and has won championships before."

Coach Summitt: "She felt a change would be positive for her and allow her to move on. She has been open about what she went through last year. If she feels it's time for a change, we feel it's time for a change for us. We have to look at who wants to be with us."

Pilight says that "this could be the worst trade in the history of the WNBA."

Yeah, as great as Milton-Jones is, the talent imbalance in this deal is large. DeLisha is an All-Star if healthy, but Holdsclaw may be the most talented basketball player on the planet.

The problem with trading someone like Mique is that it's nearly impossible to get equal value in return. You can't get Leslie, Jackson, Bird, Smith, Taurasi, or Catchings -- their teams just wouldn't give them up. So you get what you can. The Mystics were in a tough spot, forced into a tough trade.

The Sparks were the beneficiaries. And now they're just plain scary.

Monday, March 21, 2005

At Off Wing, Eric takes the first crack at a story that hasn't yet reached the papers: a change in Title IX compliance norms that he calls an "earthquake." Conservatives have been pushing to soften Title IX for years, and it appears that they've finally won.

Last Friday afternoon, the DOE announced new rules for how a school can demonstrate compliance by showing that it is "fully and effectively accommodating the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex." To gauge how much interest women have in a particular sport, universities may rely on internal surveys.

And here's the kicker: "If the survey responses from students show insufficient interest in women's sports - or if students don't bother to answer at all - schools can presume they are in compliance."

So here's how it seems to work:
You're a school. The percentage of women playing sports is lower than the percentage of men, and you're tired of trying to expand opportunities.

You send out an email survey saying "are you interested in playing any of the following varsity sports?" Women who send it to the email trash count as "not interested." Even if lots of women take the time to respond and say they want to play sports, you can still do nothing so long as not too many of them express interest in the same sport. Even if lots of women express interest in some particular sport, you can still do nothing if you have a reasonable belief that it would be too hard to add that sport at your school.

Your decision is presumed correct, and it can only be overturned if women can show "direct and very persuasive evidence of unmet interest sufficient to sustain a varsity team."
Under this new system of rules, it will be easier for schools to maintain compliance and to avoid creating new opportunities for women in athletics.

How did this all happen? Did this new regime just spring out of Zeus's head -- fully formed and armored, without warning -- last Friday?

No. In fact, it all sounds vaguely familiar. That's probably because we already had this debate two years ago.

During his first term, President Bush and then-Secretary Paige appointed a commission to examine issues related to Title IX. The commission made some recommendations, including numbers 18 and 19, which would have allowed compliance by surveys.

Members Donna de Varona and Julie Foudy, however, objected to the majority's recommendations on 18 and 19. Critics worried that the commission's proposal would seriously undermine the goals of Title IX. The resulting public outcry caused Bush and Paige to drop the matter.

As that crazy old coot Phyllis Schlafly said:
Bush had the chance to remedy this nonsense when he appointed a commission to study the problem. But he put feminists on the commission, and then chickened out because the commission's report was not unanimous and allowed the proportionality rule to remain.
But that coot was wrong. Bush didn't chicken out. He just did the smart political thing: he waited until public attention was elsewhere, and slipped in the change when no one was looking. And in a strategy borrowed from the West Wing, he buried the story by releasing it on a Friday afternoon.

I don't know enough about the nuances of Title IX law to know whether Eric is correct that this is a huge change. Reading the regs, it sounds like the DOE has erected a whole series of hurdles, presumptions, and burdens that will leave Title IX largely toothless. Then again, I don't know enough about what the law was before last week to know if it's truly a huge change. The legal story is obscure to me.

The political story, on the other hand, is clear enough.

Act One: in an atmosphere of candor and open debate, conservatives push for a change but end up rebuffed by public pressure. Act Two: conservatives bide their time, wait till everyone has forgotten all about the issue, and then make the change quietly -- without debate, without fanfare, without a press release. They successfully bury the story. Several days pass before anyone even knows that a change has been made.

Act Three has yet to be written.

My guess: a few strongly-worded columns are published in a few papers, a few strongly-worded speeches are given in Congress, a few strongly-worded press releases are issued by women's groups... all to no effect. Screen fades to black as Jim McCarthy, Phyllis Schlafly, Ann Coulter, and various college wrestling coaches share a glass of champagne in a K Street bar to celebrate their long-awaited victory.

Related posts:
1. Tuesday's news: bring on the debate.
2. Wednesday's news: is it really a change?
3. Thursday's news: Christine Brennan, Hilary Clinton, and the APA.
4. Do surveys simply reify discrimination?
5. A brief history of the three-prong test.
In a true blockbuster, Chamique Holdsclaw has been traded to the Sparks for Delisha Milton-Jones and the 13th pick.

There is no guarantee that 'Mique will show up to play, but the Sparks were willing to take the risk.

The thought of Leslie, Holdsclaw, and Teasley on the same team together is downright nutty. We may have to start answering ridiculous questions like: will LA lose a single game anytime in the next five years?

The next order of business for the Sparks is to find a head coach. Mike Terry reports that Henry Bibby, former USC men's coach and father of Mike Bibby, is a candidate.
Jere Longman asks Erica Taylor -- student, baller, novelist, wife, and mother -- if it's possible for women to have it all.

Her response: "You can, but it's very hard."
Over the past week or so, there has been some debate around the MSM and the blog world about whether there are enough women writers in the media.

It was started when Susan Estrich wrote some angry notes to LA Times editor Mike Kinsley; she complained that he failed to print enough articles written by women. That prompted a million responses, from, among others, Anne Applebaum, Virginia Postrel, Maureen Dowd, Ms. Musings, and Katha Pollitt.

We might transfer the debate to the sports world and ask: are there enough women writers covering sports?

Of course the stakes aren't as high. Sports writers don't wield the same influence as op-ed columnists. Having a "woman's perspective" on basketball isn't as important as having a women's perspective on the Iraq war. But perhaps it still matters enough to ask the question.

My sense is that it's a mixed bag. I haven't studied the matter, but I would guess that the majority of beat reporters and wire reporters covering women's basketball are men.

At the same time, many of the best and most influential writers are women. Nancy Lieberman and Mechelle Voepel, with their work at ESPN.com, are probably the two most widely read writers in the game. Recently, it looks like ESPN may have bulked up its web presence by adding work from Beth Mowins and Stacey Dales-Schuman.

To those, you could add Patricia Babcock, Jayda Evans, Kathy Orton, Lori Riley, and Michelle Smith, among others.

Is that enough? Is there anything we can do? Does it matter? I don't know.

In a related vein, Eric McErlain recently took on a WaPo reader who complained about the lack of women's hoops coverage, and some of his readers responded.