Blog: Time to retire the doubleheader from the district (04/03/22)

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the education amendments to the Civil Rights Act and the historic section of Title IX that guaranteed gender equity.

The following year, the MSHSAA held its first state women’s basketball championship.

Almost half a century later, there are still vestiges of gender inequality playing out at this time of year.

During the regular season — with a few exceptions — the girls play on Mondays and Thursdays while the boys play on Tuesdays and Fridays. As for the playoffs, starting with the district championship game, the boys’ and girls’ playoff games are held on the same night.

From an organizational perspective, it makes sense for the MSHSAA to schedule playoff games for boys and girls together on the same day at the same location.

On nights when the District Championship is played, the doubleheader creates an eerie moment when a girls’ team and their fans party while the boys’ teams wait to take the field and the fans try to find seats.

It’s almost like a weird rock concert my dad remembered going to where Beach Boys fans booed a young actor named Billy Joel.

Sometimes it works when only two schools are represented in the two finals, but that’s not always the case.

The MSHSAA has changed the schedule in recent years, which changes the boys playing ahead of the girls every two years in the Sectional and Quarterfinal playoffs. These games, however, do not crown a champion and there are no post-game ceremonies.

That’s not to say the state’s playoff schedule is perfect, especially starting this year with the two biggest classes not having sectional playoffs and going a week between games.

As with any large organization that uses bylaws and voting as a means to effect change, those changes can be slow and tricky.

The first MSHSAA Women’s Basketball State Championship was held at Northwest Missouri State University’s Lamkin Gymnasium with a 2,500 capacity. The boys, meanwhile, played at the new Hearnes Center at the University of Missouri with 13,600 seats.

At this time there were three classes for boys (S, M and L) while Northeast Nodaway beat South Shelby 41-35 in the 1973 Women’s Championship game.

The boys and girls held separate tournaments at different times, but that changed when the state finals were combined to be played at the same location.

In the third year, the Women’s State Playoffs were split into two classes, and in 1977 they were increased to three. It was four in 1979 and increased to five in 2003 with boys as schools added girls’ teams.

Although this is the second year with six classes, it is the first time that the number of districts in the two largest classes has been halved.

In the MSHSAA Basketball Handbook released before this season, the Basketball Advisory Committee, made up of coaches from across the state, recommended a change to the district tournament schedule.

The committee recommended that “in even years, the Girls’ District Tournament (plays) on Saturday, Tuesday and Friday; and the boys (game) … Monday, Thursday and Saturday with Wednesday as the catch-up date and reversal in odd years.

MSHSAA, however, leaves control and direction of the tournament to the host and schools in each district.

Weather can be a factor, as it has been this season and most years in the northern part of the state. But the regular season can end earlier, with the first rounds starting earlier.

This year, for example, up to four girls’ matches and four boys’ matches were played in the first round on Saturday while the semi-finals were on separate days.

With six classes and the playoffs split between small and big schools over different weeks, there are too many overlapping games.

If the smaller schools play a sectional playoff on Wednesday, do the larger schools also have to play a district semifinal that day? Instead of dividing the sections by class, can we do it by gender with two smaller classes in one place and the larger class not on neutral sites?

Breaking up district championship games — with the girls playing Thursday and the boys playing Friday — and having a 7 p.m. pipe puts them on a level playing field. It may also allow more fans to have the opportunity to attend the 6 p.m. whistleblower and bring student-athletes home a little earlier, especially in remote districts.

The only downside is that fans will have to buy two tickets instead of one to watch both finals.

Which makes me wonder why the district doubleheader has gone on for so long.

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