Niles, Buchanan prepared for season changes

Published 9:12 pm Thursday, July 29, 2004

By By ADAM FISHER / Niles Daily Star
Many high school administrators and athletics staffs are scrambling to figure out how to adjust to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling that Michigan high schools must realign their sports seasons.
Two local athletics directors, however, saw the decision coming nearly a year ago.
When the courts ruled Tuesday that the current Michigan High School Athletic Association season format was discriminatory against girls, Niles athletics director John Danaher didn't panick. He's been following the case closely, thus preparing for the decision for a year, he said.
The ruling forces Michigan to move girls basketball from the fall to the winter, volleyball from the winter to the fall, boys golf and girls tennis from the fall to the spring and girls golf and boys tennis from the spring to the fall.
Niles boys' tennis coach Rob Babler said the decision really didn't affect his team. The decision just forces his tennis team to play early in the year.
Danaher said the biggest concern other athletics directors have is limited gym space to run two basketball seasons, boys and girls, at one time. This isn't a problem for Niles, which has two gyms.
The court ruling simply switches girls basketball and volleyball, Danaher said, so it shouldn't pose a problem at most schools.
Buchanan athletics director Joe Austin said he was also expecting the decision.
When the topic of switching season first arose, he was one of the people worried about having space for two simultaneous basketball seasons.
Anticipating the season switch, Austin got together with Buchanan's superintendant and principal and created a plan to raise funds for a new gym.
Austin hopes the new gym will open sometime this fall. Until then, the girls' basketball team will continue to use the old gym to practice and play games.
Danaher and Austin both expressed concern that the boys and girls basketball teams playing during the same season will take away from each other's attendance.
To avoid the split, Danaher suggested learning from the Indiana High School Athletic Association, who runs its seasons the way Michigan will have to if the courts ruling goes through.
Indiana high schools play basketball games on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. One week the boys play on Monday and Friday, and the girls play on Tuesday and Saturday. The next week, they switch.
That way, the girls are guaranteed a Friday night game, which draws a bigger crowd that a Saturday game, every other week.
Danaher coached three sports at Mishawaka High School in Indiana for five years and said his experience there is a big advantage for Niles.
He said he'll try to draw a lot from his experiences in Indiana to help Niles should the changes become official.
Buchanan's girls' basketball head coach Bill Weaver said he doesn't think playing in the game season as the boys will draw fans away from his crowds.
Getting enough officials to work both boys and girls games throughout the week could also potentially be a problem, Austin said.
While coaches from Niles and Buchanan express concerns with the possible new seasons, each said they will adjust if necessary.
Weaver said the biggest adjustment his team would have to make would be getting used to sharing the gym with other sports. Even then, he said, it won't bother the girls too much.