Officially, Temple’s field hockey game with 24th-ranked Maine on Saturday never happened.
Forget the scoreless regulation period, or the tie that continued through a first overtime. All wiped from the books, declared a scrimmage after the fact.
Because of fireworks. Fireworks at noon, before a football game at an adjacent field.
No, really. … Not a game. Not a game. Fireworks.
Temple’s athletic director termed it all “simply unacceptable.”
All this went down Saturday at Kent State University in Ohio. Temple was there to play a couple of field hockey games. The Owls, 2-16 last season but 2-0 to start the season under a new coach, had lost to Kent State Friday. But the Maine game turned into a big-time matchup, until they were all told to stop playing. The Temple and Maine coaches were informed they would have to stop their game and leave Kent State’s field to allow for a planned fireworks display prior to the Kent State-Kennesaw State football game.
“I think it’s just an example that we still have a long way to go in terms of equality in general and equality in sports and for female athletes," Temple coach Susan Ciufo said over the phone Monday. “For us, it was a little bit of a tough pill to swallow on Saturday. If it takes a 70-minute game to shed light on something we’re still seeing in 2019, then so be it.”
“The circumstances that prevented the completion of our field hockey contest against Maine on Saturday are simply unacceptable and our student-athletes and coaches deserved better,” Temple athletic director Pat Kraft said in a statement. “Fairness and equality are essential in the mission of college sports and I am disappointed for the student athletes at Maine and Temple whose competition was not deemed worthy to finish.”
Kent State sent the following statement from athletic director Joel Nielsen:
"On behalf of the Kent State University Athletic Department, I would like to apologize to the University of Maine and Temple University for the decisions made surrounding the field hockey contest this weekend. In hindsight, a different decision should have been made to ultimately ensure the game reached its conclusion. We hold ourselves to a very high standard, and in this situation, we failed.
"I realize that my statement does not undo the negative impact on the student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans who deserved to see their teams compete in a full contest. Also, we let down the field hockey community and its supporters as a whole. We live by our core values, including integrity and respect, and in this case, we undoubtedly fell short.
“We will take this opportunity to learn from our mistakes. I can assure you that we have already reviewed and altered our procedures to see that no student-athletes are faced with this situation in the future. I wish the field hockey teams from both the University of Maine and Temple University the very best this season.”
Ciufo said there was nothing in the game contract noting that the game needed to be stopped at a certain time. An email did come in May, she said, with a change in the start time, which originally was to be in the afternoon but needed to be changed because of the football game.
“They never suggested playing at 8:30 or 8," Ciufo said. “All we heard is OK, we have to play at 9 a.m.”
After regulation, Ciufo said, was the first time they were informed there would be a hard stop time, after the first overtime if the game was still going. Ciufo -- a former Drexel star who took over at Temple in January after leading Stonehill College to three NCAA tournament appearances in four seasons -- said she was trying to focus on that first overtime, to end things there.
“With them coming up to us with only five minutes on the clock [between regulation and OT], they were wasting my time, in my opinion," she said. "I asked them to leave me alone.”
The game stayed tied.
“Then they came up after the first overtime, said there’s nothing you can do,’’ Ciufo said. “They did offer to come back at 5:30. They offered to pay for a hotel. But you can’t stop a game for seven hours and play 10 minutes. We asked if we could play a shorter overtime, or go to a shootout. They said no.”
The game would have gone to a shootout if the second OT had ended in a tie.
“At this point in the NCAA, you need a result for the game to count,’’ Ciufo said.
Temple players were not available to talk Monday because NCAA rules require one mandatory day off from all activity and Monday is that day, according to a spokesman.
“As upset and disappointed as they were, they got up and shook Maine’s hands, and then we got together and had an important talk," Ciufo said.
What the field hockey teams did notice, Ciufo said, was that it took quite a few minutes for the Kent State staffers to even start setting up for the fireworks.
“There were maybe six fireworks,’’ the Temple coach said. “They went off really quickly.”
Kent State did win the football game over FCS Kennesaw State -- in overtime. By then, Temple’s field hockey was deep into the bus ride home.
Of the whole episode, Ciufo said, “It set a really bad tone for female sports. I don’t know if it would have happened the same way if had been for a men’s soccer game, but I do know it happened for women’s field hockey.”