The Wildcats lead the Rebels in the fourth set of the UK vs. Ole Miss game on Saturday, March 13, 2021, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 3-1. Photo by Jack Weaver | Kentucky Kernel
September 14, 2022
The media storm surrounding the Mark Stoops vs. John Calipari Twitter debacle was definitely given more attention than it should have been. The debate surrounding mens basketball and football has sparked an interest in the disparity between UK’s mens and womens basketball programs.
With UK still in disarray over whether the university is a football or basketball school, many are left wondering why there is such concern over this hot button topic, especially when women are still fighting for equal inclusion in UK sports.
An advertisement posted on Instagram by UK’s womens basketball team announced a need for practice players to help train the womens team during the upcoming season.
The catch? Only male players are allowed to try for this paid practice position.
When questioned about why women cannot be considered for the job, Aisha Foy, whose phone number ran along with the advertisement, said they were looking for “players that are bigger, and stronger, and faster” than the womens team.
The insinuation that men are consistently the only options for big, strong, fast players is blatantly insulting to every woman associated with the university. To be told there is not a place for the capable women basketball players on campus sets female sports back decades.
This is not the first time UK has been in hot water due to lack of opportunity in womens sports. In 2019, two female students filed a lawsuit against the university for the lack of opportunity in womens sports across campus.
This lawsuit arose when a female UK student noted the fact that UK does not host an official womens lacrosse or field hockey team.
Plaintiff Lisa Niblock said there is no doubt in her mind about it – if UK offered the sports, female students would be playing them. She initially formed her resolve “to make the situation right” after noticing disparities in opportunity.
Niblock and her co-plaintiff, Meredith Newman, cited in the lawsuit that UK needs to add 183 female athletes to its rosters to meet Title IX expectations.
Lack of women’s equality in basketball does not just stop at the numerical inconsistency between the programs.
The mens team plays in Rupp Arena, which recently underwent some renovations, while the womens team is stuck in Memorial Coliseum, a non air-conditioned facility that last underwent renovations in 1990.
UK president Eli Capilouto told the Kernel that Memorial Coliseum is scheduled to undergo renovation in the near future. He did, however, fail to mention this construction will displace the womens basketball team for a projected calendar year.
Other than the immediate equality issue brought about by this lack of home for the womens team, there are some other legal concerns. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects against discrimination on the basis of sex in all institutations recieving federal monetary funding.
Title IX clarifies that equal resources should be provided to all sexes in an academic institution. While sports are protected under this act, there is a question around what constitutes unequal resources. Is it a monetary figure? Physical space for a program? The staffing numbers of one team compared to another?
While the disparity between mens and womens basketball facilities brings into question the compliance of UK to Title IX provisions, that is an examination needed by a group of scholars with more expertise than I am personally able to provide.
There is, however, no doubt an ethical sense of responsibility the university seems to lack in regards to the equal opportunities offered among mens and womens basketball.
Women are tired of having to fight for a spot at the table. Equal opportunity is a protected right in education and collegiate sports, begging for table scraps of equity is not a task anyone in the 21st century should have on their plate.
UK is a multi-billion dollar institution that has the ability to fund a more supportive environment for womens sports, basketball in particular. The lack of concern in the current administration is telling of UK’s lack of respect for their female athletes.
Kentucky Kernel (@kentuckykernel) • Instagram photos and videos
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