| Cobber Sports Home | Cobber History | Perspectives Index | Jerry Pyle |
Perspective: by Jerry Pyle
Battle of the Sexes
It was a pretty good week for Cobber sports. The football team won both an MIAC crown and a playoff berth. And the advent of the winter sports season filled the new basketball, hockey and wrestling teams with hope.
But the opening of winter sports, particularly basketball, also brings into sharp focus the often-tense competition within high schools and colleges between men's and women's sports for facilities, crowds, press coverage and prestige. It is a competition that can become ugly without cooperation and some grace on the part of those involved.
Sports administrators, coaches and sports writers generally approach the topic with extreme caution and lowered voices. So, assume this is being whispered. Some states, like North Dakota, have minimized the head- to-head competition within high schools by going to a fall women's basketball schedule. Women seem to get better treatment and coverage that way.
But at the college level, and in most high schools, the seasons occupy the same time frame. And there is room for friction. Comparisons of practice times, budgets, column inches of press coverage and won-loss records can be both legitimate and divisive. Women's teams ask for equal, or at least fair, treatment.
Men's teams are tempted to cite superior athletic skill, tradition or simple machismo for not wanting to share center stage with their women counterparts. How men react to the wonderful growth in women's sports is often fascinating to watch.
In many athletic programs the conflicts between men's and women's sports is the single most troublesome issue. Everything from second-class funding for women's budgets to sexist jokes are continually boiling over into conflict.
Coaches, competitive by definition perhaps, fight for their teams. Coaches of women's teams fight a legacy of sexism and slights. Coaches in men's programs often find themselves arguing for continued male dominance in the structure of sports, a last bastion against creeping equality for women.
Concordia has managed to handle this almost-inevitable tension with remarkable calm. The fact that Lady Cobber coach Duane Siverson served for six years as an assistant for men's coach John Eidsness explains, in part, some of this calm. There is a mutual respect and understanding there that bridges many potential trouble spots. And athletic director Armin Pipho's talent for fairness and mediation is no small asset to the process.
But many programs are not so fortunate. Determining budgets and program support within an institution based on sex or revenues or won-lost records or fan interest or broader educational objectives all have their pitfalls and ambiguities. There are few clearly-right choices facing administrators. And the expectations facing the press are equally conflicting. Their opinion of "the reader's interest" is constantly challenged by fans and coaches who feel short-changed.
If you want to explore just how sensitive this issue is, here's a little question to try on your date or spouse to liven up a dull evening. When Concordia's basketball teams meet NDSU this Friday at NDSU the Lady Cobbers (29-2 last year and defending NCAA Division III Champs) will be facing the women Bison (28-3 and 3rd in the Division II Final Four last year.) The men's game will feature two teams which last year had a combined record of 31-22. Which game should be the evening's second and "feature" game and which should be the earlier "preliminary" game?
Have a nice conversation.
These pages are maintained by Jerry Pyle firstname.lastname@example.org. These articles are copyrighted © and may not be published or reproduced without the express permission of Jerry Pyle.
Return to Perspectives Index Cobber Sports Home Page Concordia Home Page