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When Hedy George began coaching girls basketball at Columbus North High School, she remembers practicing in elementary gyms and making $300 for the entire season.
Things have changed at Columbus schools, thanks in large part to Title IX. Today, athletics directors say, salaries are equal for boys and girls coaches in corresponding sports and athletic departments have one general pool of money from which all 20 sports — 10 boys and 10 girls — draw.
“We do not have a budget,” said Bob Gaddis, Columbus East athletics director. “We take care of things based on need. We don’t have ‘X’ number of dollars for any sport. We try to operate responsibly so we can maintain money in our athletic account.
“When we pay an official, for instance, it all comes from the athletic fund,” he added. “We operate completely on gate receipts. Besides gate receipts, we do corporate sponsorships. The salaries are all paid by the corporation. Each of our sports, if they want to go out and generate extra money for their sport, they can do that.”
The situation is similar at Columbus North.
“Every team is on a four-year cycle for uniforms,” North athletic director Jeff Hester said. “Any time there is a need, the coaches just ask for them. It doesn’t matter if it’s a female sport or a male sport. Whatever our teams need, they get them.”
One area where girls might feel a little slighted is in the scheduling of basketball games. While boys teams typically play on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights, most girls games are on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday nights and Saturday afternoons.
In January, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in a case about when girls games were scheduled and reversed a lower court’s decision. Former Franklin County girls basketball coach Amber Parker was among the plaintiffs who sued that school’s district. She and some parents complained that their schedule of weeknight games made it difficult to attract fans and complete homework on time.
“Title IX says Thursday through Saturday is prime time,” Gaddis said. “The driving factor with our athletic scheduling right now is your conference and travel. We’ve had to change a lot of our schedules based on travel, but we’ve done that with a lot of our sports. We’ve tried to keep everything that’s non-conference within a 60-mile one-way distance. It’s really a collaborative decision on when we try to schedule opponents.
“We try to play tripleheaders where we play freshman and junior varsity at the same time,” he added. “We’ve been more successful at those in boys basketball than girls basketball. That’s because there aren’t many girls programs with freshman teams.”
Gaddis said that if the boys soccer team travels on a big bus, then the girls soccer team also travels on a big bus.
Hester said he schedules promotions equally for boys and girls basketball games.
“We try to make every game prime time,” Hester said. “We do special things like contests during the games, halftimes for both boys and girls. The band shows up to five boys games and five girls games. No matter what night they play on, we do the same exact thing for boys or girls.”
Pat McKee, who led the North girls basketball team to a Class 4A state runner-up finish this season, has no complaints about the way his team is treated.
“I think Columbus North is doing everything they possibly can to have equity,” McKee said. “When it comes to practice time, we get the main gym almost equal to the boys. There’s no issue there at all. They work really good that way. Equipment and uniforms, we have first-class stuff. The quality is definitely equal.”
McKee said most of his players prefer playing on Saturday afternoons to Saturday nights.
“Some outsider might say that’s not equal, but our girls like Saturday days because it’s over and they have Saturday night to do things,” McKee said. “If we have Saturday night, we have a shoot-around in the afternoon, and they’re there most of the day. There are some real advantages to Saturday afternoons.”
“I don’t see any kids or parents coming to me griping that it’s unfair,” he added. “If there was an inequity, I think they would address it.”
Columbus schools haven’t always spent the same amount of money on boys and girls sports. George, who spent 18 years as an assistant athletic director and 10 years as athletic director at North, said girls basketball games once had one set of referees who would officiate both the junior varsity and varsity games on the same night.
“It was truly bare-bones in early experiences with girls athletics at that time,” George said.
According to the Indianapolis-based National Federation of State High School Associations, one girl for every 12 boys participated in prep athletics prior to Title IX. Today, the ratio is one girl for every 1.4 boys.
As girl athletes and teams have improved over the years, crowds and revenues have closed ground on their male counterparts, says Charlie Roush, who spent 31 years as athletic director at Central Middle School.
“Boys certainly drew more fans than girls teams did,” Roush said. “We took in more revenue with boys, and that changed over the years as girls got better coaches and better level of play.”
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