KENT — Kent State wanted fireworks, and it got them.
In a statement issued Monday, Kent State apologized for its widely criticized decision Saturday to end a field hockey match to put on its scheduled fireworks show before the Golden Flashes' noon football game at Dix Stadium.
The abrupt end to the women's field hockey match in favor of football pregame fireworks brought backlash against Kent State on social media and from the National Field Hockey Coaches Association.
Citing orders from the fire marshal to end the match by 10:30 a.m., Kent State officials had halted a contest hosted by KSU between the University of Maine and Temple University before the start of a second overtime period with both teams still scoreless.
Fireworks for Kent State football games are set off near the school's field hockey facility, which is located just north of the football stadium.
Kent State officials refused to comment on the decision over the weekend, but Director of Athletics Joel Nielsen issued the following statement on Monday:
“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.”
A tweet from the Maine field hockey program announcing the decision on Saturday morning quickly sparked an outrage on social media.
"@Kent State athletic director has some serious issues to answer for," one person tweeted. "I guess Title IX doesn't exist at all D1 college levels. Very shameful. These ladies work for the opportunity to prove themselves on the pitch and you stripped them of that chance. #SHAMEFULKENTSTATE"
"Wow. @KentStAthletcis once again exhibits blatant disrespect for ALL of its student-athletes. What a slap in the face to thee young women," another replied.
"How long before women in sport are treated equally?" one person asked. "It's 2019!"
A woman identifying herself as a former Kent State field hockey player tweeted: "This will have a damaging impact on the program but on the bigger scale the unfairness and inequality to these athletes and teams. Would the same decision been made if this was a male team? We took a step back today."
Maine Director of Athletics Ken Ralph acknowledged that both teams were informed of potential timing issues with pregame football activities before the field hockey contest started. But according to a statement released on Monday by the National Field Hockey Coaches Association, which conducted its own investigation into Saturday’s events, Kent State “failed to communicate the steps that would be taken should the 10:30 a.m. hard stop be reached.”
The statement, signed by former Kent State field hockey coach and current NFHCA Executive Director Jenn Goodrich along with NFHCA President Andy Whitcomb, added that no reference to the hard stop was made in the game contract.
“While we are aware of the fact that Kent State officials offered to complete the game at 5:30 p.m. (Saturday, following the football game) and pay hotel costs for the Temple team, we find their lack of preparedness and the timing of their response to be unacceptable,” it said.
Maine remained in Kent to play the Flashes on Sunday morning.
Word of the decision to stop Saturday’s contest was eventually picked up by several national media outlets, including ESPN.
Although it was originally announced that the Temple-Maine matchup would be declared a “no-contest,” the NFHCA statement claimed the game must be played to its completion and counted per NCAA rules.
“We hope that Kent State University will do all it can to not only assist officials at Temple and Maine in their efforts to complete the suspended contest as per NCAA rules, but also to compensate them for any expenses incurred,” it said.
Aside from Nielsen's statement, KSU officials refused to provide further comment.