AUS basketball changes championship schedule to highlight women’s teams

Revised playoff schedule to match the doubleheader format of the regular season

Atlantic University Sport (AUS) is taking steps to help level the playing field between men and women’s basketball teams.

This year’s championship schedule will look more like the regular season, with doubleheaders featuring a women’s game and a men’s game. The tournament takes place Feb. 28 to March 1 at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax.

Prior to this year, the women played all of their playoff games in the afternoon and the men played in the evening. The new schedule gives women’s teams the opportunity to play in the later time slot, often seen as the higher profile fixture.

Ariel Provo is a guard playing her third year for the Dalhousie women’s basketball team. She feels the schedule change is a move in the right direction.

“I think that it’s more equal,” said Provo. “It’s also showing that they are valuing women’s play even though they may not get as much money for it.”

Provo said men’s teams typically bring in more revenue through ticket sales, so she likes seeing a schedule that places the emphasis on the sport rather than the money.

Dalhousie Tigers player Ariel Provo (left) dribbles into opposition territory.   Alix Bruch

Anna Stammberger, head coach of the Dalhousie women’s basketball team, is also pleased to see the changes AUS has made to the championship schedule.

“Most of the coaches were not in favour of the women always playing in the afternoon,” said Stammberger.

“They felt they were second-class citizens getting the less than ideal time. But now that we have that sort of equal billing, I think it’ll be that much better.”

Stammberger said that having the women play earlier in the day made it difficult for people to come out to the games, which is essential when it comes to advancing women’s sport.

Bigger venue

The schedule changes come five years after the women’s basketball championships made their debut at the Scotiabank Centre, home to multiple professional sports teams. The AUS men’s basketball championships have been held at the centre for years.

Phil Currie, executive director of AUS, said moving the women’s championships to the same venue as the men has been integral to increasing support for women’s basketball across the province.

“It’s been growing year after year,” said Currie.

“I believe the ladies enjoy being in Scotiabank Centre and we enjoy having them there. I think it’s been great for them and the crowds, and the fans are engaged.”

This year’s AUS basketball championships will be held Feb. 28 to March 1 at Scotiabank Centre in Halifax.   Alix Bruch

Stammberger, who is now in her 11th season as head coach, has fond memories of being a player when Dalhousie hosted nationals in 1980. She said playing at the Scotiabank Centre as a woman was a big deal then, and she’s excited to see women’s teams playing there more regularly.

“It’s a big stage and it really gives them a taste of this sort of elite level of competition,” said Stammberger.

“I think it really does add to the student athlete experience, which is a priority for AUS.”

Status quo at ACAA basketball

Unlike AUS, the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) has not changed its schedule.

During championships, the women’s basketball team at Mount Saint Vincent University plays in the afternoon, while the men play in the evening. The women play at lunch or dinner time in the regular season.

Kelsey McGrath, a fifth-year forward at Mount Saint Vincent, finds it frustrating when her team is outperforming the men and doesn’t get to play at times when more people are available to watch.

“People always show up towards the end of our game,” said McGrath, noting these are just fans arriving early for the men’s game.

McGrath’s coach, Mark Forward, organized a Christmas tournament separate from the league and intentionally set the schedule so the women played in the evening. There was no fuss about the change, he said, but he wonders why the women always seem to play at seemingly less opportune times.

“I’m guessing it’s just because that’s the way it’s always been,” said Forward.

“We always want to do what we can to grow the women’s game, regardless of what sport it is,” said Phil Currie, executive director of AUS.   Alix Bruch

Phil Currie says in the AUS, there are ongoing conversations around the timing of games across all sports. He recognizes that it can be hard for people to make it out to an earlier women’s game, but that there are also drawbacks to playing later.

Currie said if they were ever going to move in the direction of changing game times, student-athletes would be at the centre of that decision.

“We always want to do what we can to grow the women’s game, regardless of what sport it is,” he said.

Alix Bruch

Alix Bruch

Alix is a journalism student at the University of King's College. She left a career in geology to play soccer professionally in Europe, before settling into the world of writing. She loves literary journalism and telling stories about women in sport.

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