Between the Lines By David Lias So, you think the situation with the Sioux Falls Roosevelt basketball team is the first time that South Dakotans have paused for a moment to ponder whether it makes sense to play high school girls basketball in the fall?
Over three years ago, the parent of a Vermillion High School athlete involved with the girls volleyball team addressed the Vermillion School Board, and asked that they consider flip-flopping the girls basketball and volleyball seasons. Such a change, he argued, would make it possible for Vermillion volleyball players to compete against prep teams in Nebraska, which holds its volleyball season in the fall.
It would probably be unfair to say that this parent's request was ignored. If recollection serves correctly, 1) it was quickly determined that the South Dakota High School Activities Association wouldn't support such a change, and 2) not long after the parent's request came a firestorm of controversy concerning opting out of the property tax freeze. Voters gave a thumbs down to that idea, and for a time it looked like there wouldn't be any extra-curricular activities in the Vermillion School District.
That situation changed later in 1996, when an audit discovered that the Vermillion School District's financial situation was much more stable than was once believed.
That, of course is all behind us now. Let's look at what's going on right now, and consider, for a moment, if some policies concerning female high school athletics need to be changed in the future.
The SDHSAA has just given the green light to a request by Sioux Falls Roosevelt to send its girls basketball team to a national tournament this December.
The association reconsidered the request and changed its mind after previously rejecting the idea on the grounds that high school teams cannot participate in a sport out-of-season.
It should also be noted that the association's view on this matter changed after Gov. William Janklow suggested he might call a special session of the state Legislature to address the issue.
Critics of the idea of allowing Sioux Falls Roosevelt to attend the national tournament cite that South Dakota has just set a dangerous precedent.
That in itself should send up a red flag. Personally, whenever I hear someone say that a change in the status quo will set a precedent, they are really saying, "I'm afraid of change. Forget progress. Preserve the status quo, no matter how antiquated and impractical it's proven to be."
I'm sure there were plenty of people back in the early 1970s who believed a dangerous precedent was being set when girls basketball got its start as a formal part of high school athletic programs in South Dakota.
The federal Title IX program, acting to assure that female athletes receive the same opportunities that male athletes do at the high school level, made the addition of a high school girls basketball season in the state a reality.
A strange aspect of the season, however, has, and continues to be, its timing. In the great scheme of things, society has expected certain things to occur at certain times. Football is played in the fall, and basketball, through the ages, has been played in the winter months.
Except in our state. South Dakota is one of only four states in the nation that annually sets its girls basketball season in the fall. One can easily understand why, too. Back in 1973, when a girls basketball season was begun in the state, most high schools had limited building, equipment and staffing resources. Running two basketball seasons simultaneously would have placed too great of a strain on our public schools.
Progress has been made in last quarter century, however. For about a decade now, high schools have offered a girls volleyball season at the same time that boys are playing basketball, demonstrating that we've reached a point where, with proper scheduling, male and female athletes can share court facilities.
The Sioux Falls Roosevelt brouhaha, if nothing else, sends us a message to think about. Perhaps it is time to consider flip-flopping the timing of our prep girls volleyball and basketball seasons.