Kent St. probe finds no violation in pre-empting field hockey for football fireworks

An internal investigation into Kent State's decision to stop a field hockey game from heading into double overtime so the school could set off fireworks before its Sept. 7 home football game found no Title IX violations or gender-related bias, according to a prepared statement Friday from university president Todd Diacon.

Temple and No. 24 Maine were scoreless and heading into double overtime on a field near the football stadium last month when Kent State officials ended the game because of the fire marshal regulations for the scheduled daytime fireworks. The teams had been informed of the timing issues before they started play.

The teams complied, and the NCAA deemed it a scrimmage, but the decision sparked outrage and disappointment from the coaches and players. The National Field Hockey Coaches Association called the decision "unacceptable" and "a terrible message being communicated to female student-athletes in this year of 2019."

"We deeply regret the negative impact of the match cancellation upon the Temple University and University of Maine field hockey teams," Diacon wrote in a letter to the Kent State community. "I have reached out to both presidents with the offer to reimburse reasonable and customary costs for their teams to play a make-up match this year, if possible."

A school spokesman on Friday said Temple had no further comment on the incident.

The internal investigation was completed by Kent State's Office of Compliance, Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.

"It was noted that a similar scheduling situation occurred in 2016, and in that case, the field hockey match continued, and fireworks for football were canceled," Diacon wrote in the statement. "The current case involved new and different personnel and has provided an important opportunity to assess and improve our procedures and communication."

Maine released a statement saying the schoo lwas disappointed that Kent State's investigation did not include interviews with its players.

"We acknowledge the Title lX investigation by Kent State University regarding the field hockey game between the University of Maine and Temple University, but are disappointed that, according to the summary report, the investigation did not include interviews with the student-athletes who were affected and disrespected by the decisions made on Sept. 7," Maine's statement said. We appreciate, welcome and encourage the broader discussion of Title IX issues sparked by this incident and the investigation."

Diacon wrote that Kent State's athletic department is "conducting a full review of home scheduling to identify potential conflicts and to ensure conflicts are resolved and communication with visiting teams is clear and complete."

According to the letter, Kent State's Intercollegiate Athletics Equity and Diversity Committee will conduct a self-study on gender equity in athletics this fall. The last such review was completed in 2014. Under the previous university president, Lester Lefton, the university voluntarily committed to conduct the self-study at five-year intervals after the NCAA removed its requirement for a self-study every 10 years.

Diacon also said Kent State will administer a "climate study" of student-athletes and departmental staff.

Maine coach Josette Babineau is entering her 13th season as head coach of the Black Bears and said last month she had never experienced anything like that.

Temple was 2-16 last season, and coach Susan Ciufo was hired to turn the program around in January. She has already led the team to its first consecutive shutouts to start a season since 2008. The Owls were in position to potentially beat their first ranked opponent since 2016.

"It would've been a good statement for us to make moving forward," she told ESPN last month. "... It would've helped with our confidence because we're still in that period where they're transitioning from a team that was 2-16 last year to recognizing this year that they can do it. It was a bummer that this was considered not to count when they fought so hard for 70 minutes."