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March 11, 2015 — Two very uncomfortable co-championships

The most hated words in field hockey and a number of other high-school sports, especially at the time of a state tournament final, are the following: “If there is no winner by the end of overtime, co-champions will be declared.”

Last week, there were two situations in which officials declared co-championships in two different women’s athletic competitions under two different circumstances, but both situations left bad tastes in the competitors’ mouths.

Saturday, the regular-season women’s basketball championship in the Southwest Athletic Conference came down to a game between Texas Southern and Southern University. With Southern ahead by two points in the second half, a bench-clearing brawl erupted between the two teams. Officials ruled a double-forfeit, but Southern was originally ruled to have won the game as well as a share of the SWAC title.

But because Texas Southern had eight of its 10 players suspended because of the brawl, the Tigers withdrew from the SWAC postseason tournament. The Southern Jaguars, with six players suspended, are now the No. 1 seed in the tournament, but it’s anyone’s guess whether they will be able to mount up a good charge to the SWAC title and its AQ for the NCAA Division I women’s championship. The proof will be whether they can get by the first-round opponent, Mississippi Valley State, next Wednesday.

A few hundred miles to the northeast, a scholastic girls’ ice hockey game between Simsbury (Conn.) and a co-op team featuring players from East Catholic, Glastonbury, and South Windsor finished in a 2-2 draw after two overtime periods.

But, contrary to an email sent to postseason participants, the game ended with Simsbury and the co-op team, known as ETB, being declared co-champions.

The thing is, Connecticut’s girls’ ice hockey participation is at a much lower level than boys when it comes to high schools. There are 65 scholastic boys’ teams, but only about 20 girls’ teams in Connecticut. It’s so low that the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference does not recognize the sport.

And therein lies the problem. Because girls don’t have equal access to the rinks that the boys do, the normal rules don’t seem to apply. As the awards ceremony for the Simbury-ETB game was taking place, the Zamboni was running to clear the ice for a boys’ game which was scheduled right afterward. It gave the impression that the girls’ teams were second-class citizens.

It’s befuddling to think that, in one of the most affluent states in the country in terms of school spending, that the inequality is so very naked. It does recall a number of stories of Connecticut high schools whose field hockey seasons were in jeopardy because of poor field conditions and neglectful maintenance of campus grass pitches.

That has been neutralized because of the pervasiveness of artificial grass, but it’s amazing that history is repeating itself.

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