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Exploring Women's Lacrosse Inequalities at the Micro and Macro Levels

Diving Further Into the Inequalities that Exist in College Women's Lacrosse

Inequality between Women's Lacrosse and Men's Lacrosse has been on full display the last few weeks on social media. The reason for the anger? Namely, Game times for the Division I quarterfinals, semifinals, and national championship games, as seen below.  

NCAA DI Women's Lacrosse Quarterfinals 

Saturday, May 22nd

No 1. North Carolina vs. No. 8 Stony Brook - 12p.m.- ESPN3

No. 2 Northwestern vs. No. 7 Duke- 1p.m.- ESPN3

No. 3 Syracuse vs. No.6 Florida- 2p.m.- ESPN3

No. 4 Boston College vs. No. 5 Notre Dame- 3p.m.- ESPN3

NCAA DI Men's Lacrosse Quarterfinals 

Saturday, May 22nd

No. 5 Georgetown vs. No. 4 Virginia- 12p.m.- ESPNU

Rutgers vs. No 1 UNC- 2:30p.m.- ESPNU

Sunday, May 23rd

Loyola vs. No. 2 Duke- 12p.m.- ESPNU

No. 6 Notre Dame vs. No. 3 Maryland- 2:30p.m.- ESPNU

NCAA DI Women's Lacrosse Championship Weekend

Friday, May 28th

No. 1 UNC vs. No. 4 Boston College- 12:00p.m.- ESPNU

No. 2 Northwestern vs. No. 3 Syracuse- 2:30p.m.- ESPNU

Sunday, May 30th

Championship Game- Noon- ESPNU

NCAA DI Men's Lacrosse Championship Weekend

Saturday, May 29th

No 1 UNC vs. No. 4 Virginia- 12p.m.- ESPN2

No. 2 Duke vs. No 3 Maryland- 2:30p.m.- ESPN2

Monday, May 31st

Championship Game- 1p.m.- ESPN2

One of the biggest concerns is scheduled game times for women's games. In the quarterfinals, games were scheduled from 12-3 p.m." Taylor Cummings, a three-time Tewaaraton winner and member of Team USA explained this dilemma best in one of her USA Lacrosse columns, "Taylor's Takes," explaining: 

"If you tuned in to see Jamie Ortega’s spectacular leaping game-tying goal, you missed Lauren Gilbert, Lindsey McKone and Izzy Scane put on an offensive clinic. If you watched Emma Ward have a career day against the Gators, you didn’t have a chance to see Belle Smith’s first-half hat trick or Charlotte North’s insane hesitation step. As an avid viewer and supporter of the sport, I was so disappointed and discouraged to know that so many were missing so much."

This schedule was a joke compared to the men's quarterfinal schedule spread out over two days with two-and-a-half hours between games, allowing viewers time to absorb the entirety of each game before moving on to the next. 

Another issue surrounding timing is seen in the championship weekend schedule for the women, as the semifinal games are on Friday at 12p.m. and 2:30p.m. when many kids are in school and adults at work. This, compared to the men's games which are on Saturday and Monday (memorial day), both of which are days when the majority of viewers will be at home and able to watch these matches in full. 

A third issue that is being discussed is where these matches are being streamed. Up until Championship Weekend, the Women's Lacrosse games were being streamed on ESPN3 which is only available through streaming. It is not until Championship Weekend that the Women's games are moved on to ESPNU which is available on cable. The men's quarterfinal games were all on ESPNU or ESPN2, giving them the easier path to higher exposure.

These schedules only reveal problems on the surface level. There are issues harder for the eye to see that have prevailed all season long. For instance, the production value for the women's games are often lower, with many being a single-camera stream. Some don't have broadcasters or color commentators. 

One of the most important questions to answer is who decides these schedules? According to industry sources, the NCAA works with the host schools in order to determine the date and time of games in the women's lacrosse first round through the quarterfinals. The championship weekend schedule is determined by the NCAA and ESPN. 

In addition, Syracuse Sports Illustrated confirmed with one Division I Women's Lacrosse Head Coach and one Division I assistant that the coaches have very little say in the scheduling, and the majority of the scheduling is done through ESPN and the NCAA.

Many members of lax twitter and the lacrosse community as a whole have been advocating for women's lacrosse to receive better times, have their matches air on more viewed networks, and overall just receive equal treatment to the men. 

But the reason why I'm writing this article is not just to recap what's been happening, but because there's another side to this story that people aren't talking about. And that side is understanding what the coaches and players want. From there, those advocating for coaches and players can advocate in a more purposeful direction. 

Many in the lacrosse community have been advocating for later times on Friday for the NCAA Division I Women's Lacrosse Semifinal game so that parents and kids will be home from work/school and can watch the games. But, now and in years past, many coaches have asked for the games to be earlier, so that their players can have better recovery time on Sunday for the Championship game. 

A similar situation happened in the Syracuse quarterfinal game this past Saturday. I was the color analyst for the Syracuse Women's Lacrosse quarterfinal game against Florida and I found out that on the Saturday that Syracuse was playing, the university was having graduation. That meant that our production crew at Syracuse University (a wonderful, experienced crew led by former ESPN employees) would not be available to produce the game because they were required by the university to produce a live stream of graduation instead. 

"What a shame," I thought. As someone who has developed a passion for broadcasting, I thought that losing out on a quality production team for a quarterfinal game between two seeded teams was an injustice. Especially since a producer for Syracuse told me that the quarterfinal game was allowed to be played on either Friday or Saturday. 

That being said, I then asked around and confirmed with one of the coaches taking part in that matchup that they would prefer to have the game on Saturday because it would serve as one extra day to prepare for the matchup, which was more important to this individual than the production value of the match. 

It was at this point that I took my foot off the gas, because I realized that I was advocating for something that the coaches would not want. Another option would benefit their players more. As members of the lacrosse community, we have to figure out a way to merge the wants and needs of coaches and players, as well as the wants and needs of lacrosse fans, viewers, and advocates. 

The coaches' and players' main priority, main focus, is winning each game in front of them. The viewers, fans, and advocates want more viewership, quality time slots, quality production value, and equality for the women's game. 

Both goals are important, and we need to find a way to merge them. 

The coaches and players goals are short-term. They focus on the games in front of them because that's their priority. They want to win a national championship. 

The viewers, fans, and advocates have long-term goals. To make sure that women's lacrosse isn't an afterthought, but the first thought. To change women's lacrosse from being the opening act, to the main event. Now, the challenge is figuring out the way to do that while hearing, understanding, and working alongside the wants and needs of the coaches and players who the lacrosse community is advocating for. 

Many people partake in the first step of fighting against inequality in women's sports, which is making noise. Talking about these issues, promoting them, doing anything they can to shed light on them. 

The next step is proposing solutions. 

That's what Syracuse Sports Illustrated wants to do. We decided to come up with a mock schedule of how we think the 2021 Women's and Men's Lacrosse Schedule could have been different to not only promote the Women's game, but the sport of lacrosse a a whole, while taking into account the desires that coaches have for their players to have enough prep time, and rest time. Lastly, we know that ESPN is also in contract with Softball and other sports that they have to air. Our schedule does not displace anything other than reruns on ESPN. 

NCAA DI Women's Lacrosse Quarterfinals

Saturday, May 22nd

No 1. North Carolina vs. No. 8 Stony Brook - 2:30p.m.- ESPNU

No. 2 Northwestern vs. No. 7 Duke- 7:00p.m.- ESPNU

Sunday, May 23rd

No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 6 Florida- 2:30p.m.- ESPNU

No. 4 Boston College vs. No. 5 Notre Dame- 7:00p.m.- ESPNU

NCAA DI Men's Lacrosse Quarterfinals

Saturday, May 22nd

No. 5 Georgetown vs. No. 4 Virginia- 12:00p.m.- ESPNU

Rutgers vs. No 1 UNC- 5:00p.m.- ESPNU

Sunday, May 23rd

Loyola vs. No. 2 Duke- 12:00p.m.- ESPNU

No. 6 Notre Dame vs. No. 3 Maryland- 5:00p.m.- ESPNU

NCAA DI Women's Lacrosse Championship Weekend

Saturday, May 29th

No. 1 UNC vs. No. 4 Boston College- 5:00p.m.- ESPNU

No. 2 Northwestern vs. No. 3 Syracuse- 7:00p.m.- ESPNews (or, the Missouri vs. JMU softball game can be moved to ESPNews and this game moved to ESPNU)

Monday, May 31st

Championship Game- 5:00p.m.- ESPN2

NCAA DI Men's Lacrosse Championship Weekend

Saturday, May 29th

No 1 UNC vs. No. 4 Virginia- 12p.m.- ESPN2

No. 2 Duke vs. No 3 Maryland- 2:30p.m.- ESPN2

Monday, May 31st

Championship Game- 1p.m.- ESPN2