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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 14, 1998
Contact: John Johnson 517.332.5046

MHSAA Statement On Gender Equity Lawsuit
By Communications Director John Johnson

KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Sept. 14 - Michigan High School Athletic Association Communications Director John R. Johnson made the following statement today on behalf of the Association regarding its response to a legal action brought here in United States District Court that attempts to empower the organization to force the public, private and parochial schools in its statewide membership to change the sports they sponsor and the time of the year when they conduct sports seasons.

"This case is about removing schools' authority to make decisions. The plaintiffs ask that the court order the MHSAA to develop a plan to tell schools what to do, and to pay for that plan's implementation. Legally, the MHSAA simply doesn't have such authority. We do not seek such authority. The lawsuit seeks to have the MHSAA do what state law says it cannot.

"The sports seasons in Michigan are scheduled when they are because a large majority of schools chose those times of year and did so in advance of MHSAA involvement with the sport. Because 82 percent of MHSAA member schools favor the current alignment of sports seasons, the Association can easily defend the sports season schedule.

"More importantly, the MHSAA will aggressively defend schools' authority to determine for themselves when sports seasons will occur.

"The MHSAA can't make schools switch seasons. I believe that if we put our Girls Soccer Tournament in the fall when more than 300 schools sponsor girls soccer in the spring, schools would create a new association to put the post-season tournament where they want it.

"We can't make any school district conduct water polo or ice hockey for girls, and it would be inappropriate for the MHSAA to sponsor post-season tournaments in those sports for the five and six schools, respectively, that currently sponsor those sports.

"We will continue to play best of three game matches in volleyball in our post-season tournament if that's what schools want; regardless of what the colleges do; just as we will continue to use high school playing rules in MHSAA tournaments for football, basketball and other sports, regardless of the rules codes for college athletics.

"We will continue to play post-season tournament contests in the best available facilities appropriate in size for anticipated crowds, utilizing the advice and consent of site selection committees made up of school personnel from around the state. A difference of opinion about the best venue for an event does not amount to any discrimination at all, much less the intentional discrimination the plaintiffs allege.

"The MHSAA has a track record of serving girls interscholastic athletics even more aggressively than boys.

"The MHSAA -- Was the first state high school association in the United States to establish an equity committee as a standing state association committee; was the first state high school association in the United States to sponsor an annual conference for women in sports leadership and the only state to permanently endow such a conference; was the first state high school association to award annually a Women In Sports Leadership Award; sponsors 12 tournaments for girls and 12 for boys; allows girls to play on any team in MHSAA tournaments, but does not allow boys to play on girls teams in those tournaments; televises as many girls tournaments as boys, even without sufficient sponsor support; produces the same quality souvenir programs for girls final tournaments, even without comparable advertiser support; and reimburses tournament hosts and managers for girls tournaments at the same level as boys, even without the same spectator support.

"The MHSAA is an advocate for girls' athletics and for schools' control of their own programs."


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