The Gender Gap in South Bend High School Basketball Programs? Scheduling

By Cassidy McDonald and Grace Watkins • May 15th, 2017

Morgan Frasier photo

Clay High School sophomore forward Morgan Frasier said her favorite aspect of basketball is how it allows for constant improvement. (Photo/Cassidy McDonald)

In 2009, an Indiana girls basketball coach sued over Franklin County High School’s scheduling discrepancy: At the time, 95 percent of Franklin County boys basketball games took place in “prime time” (Friday and Saturday nights and the Wednesday before Thanksgiving), compared with just 53 percent of girls games.

The coach, Amber Parker, won her lawsuit against the Indiana High School Athletic Association in 2012. The courts ruled that this scheduling discrepancy was a violation of Title IX. But analysis of recent scheduling data show that little has changed since that ruling took place a half decade ago.

Title IX is a statute originally sponsored by then-U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh (D-Indiana) and signed by President Richard Nixon in 1972. It requires that no person experience exclusion “from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” on the basis of their sex. For high school sports, this means that boys teams should not receive more money or resources than girls teams.

bluestopwatchiconTimeline: A brief history of Title IX and high school sports

High schools have been slow to comply with Title IX. Kirby Whitacre, director of athletics for the South Bend Community School Corporation, said that at the time of the Parker case, “there was huge inequity in basketball scheduling.”

The corporation voted in the 2014-15 school year to adopt an equitable scheduling standard by 2016 in response to the Parker ruling. Since then, Whitacre said, athletic directors have become more educated about Title IX and schools have made plans to hire more female athletic directors. Their very presence reminds decision-makers about the importance of women’s athletics, Whitacre said.

How much has basketball scheduling in local South Bend high schools actually changed since the Parker case eight years ago?

A data analysis of five local high schools’ basketball programs reveals that eight out of 10 varsity and JV teams in the area still schedule boys’ games more often during prime-time spots — Fridays and Saturdays — compared to weeknight matchups. Two teams had evenly scheduled prime-time spots.

The analysis was based on the online schedule for each school, which represents the way games were initially planned — though games may have later been rescheduled due to weather or emergency, according to the South Bend School Corporation.

Each of the five schools, on average, gave boys more prime-time spots than girls. The average amount of scheduling disparity between girls and boys teams was 12.4 percent across the five schools. For comparison, the average bias present in Franklin County high schools at the time of the 2012 Parker case was 42 percent.

When presented with the findings of the data analysis, Whitacre said he was surprised. He said he would have guessed there was less than a 10 percent disparity in scheduling between boys and girls teams.

Whitacre noted that boys games bring in more revenue, and that scheduling decisions in the past were “absolutely, absolutely, 100 percent driven by money.” He attributed the current disparity in South Bend schools, however, to inattention.

“In the old days it was deliberate,” he said. Today, “it’s not a deliberate attempt to ignore the law, but it’s sloppy record keeping … It’s lack of focus,” he said. Whitacre plans to bring the issue up with the athletic directors in the fall.

The school with the greatest disparity in varsity teams’ primetime game scheduling is Clay High School with a 24.2 percent difference between the girls and boys teams. The school with the least disparity out of the five varsity teams is Penn High School, where the teams were scheduled an equal amount of primetime games.

The school with the greatest JV disparity is Adams High School with a 25 percent difference. Riley High School had the least amount of scheduling disparity with equally scheduled JV primetime games. JV teams tend to have slightly greater disparity (2.92 percent on average) than varsity teams.

Kirby Whitacre suspects that the South Bend area is still more Title IX compliant relative to the rest of Indiana. “Rural schools are particularly bad because they are not challenged,” he said.

Sandra Walter, assistant commissioner for the Indiana High School Athletic Association, disputed Whitacre’s claim. “Rarely do we hear an issue with Title IX with respect to basketball scheduling,” she said. “There is no data to suggest that there is a difference between rural and city areas.”

The oral arguments heard in the 2012 Parker case explain why compliance is worth ensuring in the first place. The National Women’s Law Center, representing the female plaintiffs in the case, presented evidence that when girls games are pushed into the school week, female students face a greater academic burden — and battle feelings of inferiority when they can’t draw the large crowds the boys often do.

Avital Nathman, a freelance journalist who writes about Title IX and gender equality, said, “If boys at these schools — starting in junior high — get the sense that they are scheduled more weekend games than the girls teams, they’ll internalize that and the underpinned meaning associated with it: Boys teams are more important. Boys sports are more popular.”

Morgan Frasier, a sophomore guard on the varsity girls team at Clay High School, said she doesn’t notice a scheduling bias toward the boys team, but does notice that boys games are better attended.

“For girls,” she said, “it’s pretty much just parents.”

Mark Westendorp photo

Mark Westendorp, girls varsity head coach at Clay High School, said he hasn’t noticed a scheduling discrepancy. (Photo/Cassidy McDonald)

Frasier’s coach, Clay High School Girls Varsity Head Coach Mark Westendorp, also said he hasn’t been “super aware” of discrepancies in scheduling.

When it comes to game schedules, Westendorp prefers Friday nights. Fridays allow his team to eat well during the school day and arrive to the game energized, but the weekend also brings larger crowds.

“Friday is deemed as the prime time. That’s what you want in a high school sport,” he said.

At Clay, the girls team played Friday games 13 percent less often than the boys team. Only four of the team’s 23 games were scheduled on a Friday compared to nine of the 30 boys games.

Game schedules are crafted by high school athletic directors. Washington High School Athletic Director Garland Hudson said about 30 percent of the games are pre-set by the conference, but the rest are coordinated between schools. Athletic directors will, for instance, look up available games on a certain date and schedule them through a software called ArbiterSports.

Hudson noted that his typical scheduling strategy involves placing girls games on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while the boys are scheduled on Wednesdays and Fridays. While Washington splits Saturdays evenly between the genders, the boys were initially scheduled on Fridays about 11 percent more often than the girls.

This year, he said, games were rescheduled so that boys played seven Friday games and girls played six.

“You don’t want to always schedule boys on Friday night,” he said. “You look for ways to make sure you even the playing field.”

Jill Bodinger, Senior Associate Athletics Director at Notre Dame, remembers the effects of an uneven playing field. She witnessed serious scheduling inequities as a high school basketball player in the graduating class of 1987 at Valparaiso High School. This was before the 2012 Parker case ruled that Title IX applied to game scheduling.

“[I did] homework on a bus in the dark at 10 p.m. because we only played on weeknights,” she said.

Bodinger’s take on the current state of gender equity in high school sports?

“Still a ways to go,” she said.

She said she believes that the low-level scheduling bias in South Bend high schools does have an effect. She said inequitable scheduling — of any amount — not only equates to a lack of fans and an academic burden, but also tells female students that they are second-class citizens.

Gender equity in sports is especially crucial at the high school level. Already by the age of 14, girls are twice as likely to drop out of sports as boys. The top reasons why girls stop playing? A lack of access to facilities and a stigma associated with being athletic.

At 15th worst, Indiana ranks near the bottom of the country in terms of gender-equitable sports participation — that is, the gap between what percentage of girls and boys play sports in high school.

Frasier has been playing basketball since the fourth grade. Most of the time, she is too wrapped up in the game to pay attention to the lack of cheering fans. “When I play, I don’t really focus on the stands,” she said.

She only focuses on the game — a game that she likes for the way it promotes constant progress and constant improvement.

“If you put in a lot of work,” she said, “it’s easy to see how that work pays off.”

bluebookicon Read more: Indiana ranks low in high school sports gender equity

Under Pence and Buttigieg, South Bend sees mixed economic results

By Lucas Masin-Moyer and Juan Jose Rodriguez • May 15th, 2017


A view of downtown South Bend above the St. Joseph’s River. (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

At the end of 2016, Mary Grace Sikorski was forced to close her restaurant, Spaghetti Joes on the west side of South Bend due to lack of business. A few months before Sikorski closed shop, Stephanie Mirza and her husband bought the Innisfree Bed and Breakfast just south of Spaghetti Joe’s and have seen massive success since taking over this past August.

Sikorski and Mirza’s business ventures reflect the mixed bag of economic development in South Bend under then-Governor, now Vice President Mike Pence, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg since the two were elected in 2013 and 2012, respectively.

The South Bend area, specifically, has been influenced by two major players outside of Pence and Buttigieg, whose roles in the economy weigh heavily into the region’s economic development.

“The Chamber of Commerce, they are working really hard to make South Bend a place for people to come and the visit South Bend people,” Mirza said. “There are just so many initiatives going on. And of course there is the university. Notre Dame has an orbit itself that brings people here, so there are kind of these two operating things that are more and more interacting together.”

Since 2013, the unemployment rate in South Bend has fallen from 10.5 percent to 4.8 percent, along with the rest of the state, where the unemployment rate fell from 8.4 percent to 4.1 percent.

This divergence in unemployment numbers, in which the state level is 0.7 percentage points below the city level, is representative of a greater trend across economic measures. The median income in of those living in St. Joseph’s County ($45,248) lags behind the state average of $50,532.

Dan Graff, a history professor at Notre Dame, attributes this discrepancy to the loss of industrial jobs in the area.

“You don’t talk to South Bend residents for very long and ask them about the economy and they don’t still bring up Studebaker,” he said. “ … [The plant] closed in the 60s and people are still talking about it. So it has been somewhat of a long-term problem. I think there’s been periods of hemorrhaging of industrial jobs in the wake of NAFTA in 1994.”

movie_play_blue2Animation: Google Earth timelapse showing the transformation of South Bend

This departure of the core of the economic sector led South Bend’s population to decline from its peak in 1960 of 132,445 to around 100,000 in 2010. This number, according to census estimates, has begun to rebound in recent years.

The mixture of positive signals (lower unemployment) and negative signals (lower median income and population decline) show the mixed nature of economic development in South Bend, a city where economic success is possible, yet far from a guarantee.

Economic Failure in South Bend

For Sikorski, the decision to pursue a lifelong dream of opening Spaghetti Joes was the result of a perfect blend of timing and desire.

“I was fed up with corporate America,” she said via an email interview. “After 15 years at my job, my position was eliminated. The same thing had happened after my first job out of college — I was at that one for 12 years. So I wanted to work for myself.  I also loved to cook and always had a dream of opening an Italian restaurant, so the time seemed right.”

Sikorski determined the name for her restaurant per Italian naming customs. When many members of a family have the same name — stemming from their being named after their own fathers or grandfathers — then the identifying characteristic becomes the skill around which the individual built his livelihood. With five “Joes” in the family, and Sikorski’s grandfather being known as such among his family for his passion for cooking Italian cuisine, the choice was simple for the new establishment’s name.

The fairytale of owning the family restaurant did not last long. After only eight months of operation, Sikorski was forced to close the restaurant, citing a lack of business rooted in low demand.

“The area was terrible for a restaurant,” she said.  “I should’ve done more research before deciding on the location, but it was literally two minutes from my home.”

Spaghetti Joes management photo

Spaghetti Joes owner Mary Grace Sikorski (center) alongside her father, Domonick Vito Corpora (left) and brother, Rev. Joe Corpora, C.S.C. (Photo/Mary Grace Sikorski>

Sikorski added that the restaurant industry was too demanding to justify continuing operation of the restaurant.

“I ended up going back to work for ‘the man,’ and it was far too taxing to keep up both the full-time job — which at this point was paying the bills — and running the restaurant,” she said. “Even with business at the restaurant declining, it was more than I could handle long term.”

Sikorski’s failure can be attributed, in some part, to the loss of South Bend’s industrial economic base. When Studebaker left South Bend in 1963, the rug was pulled out from under the city, who has still yet to recover completely after more than a half-century of stagnation.

This stagnation has made it harder for small business owners like Sikorski to succeed with less money flowing in and out of the city. In turn, Graff said, resources are restricted, and the number of jobs paying people a just wage and keeping them safely out of poverty has continually fallen since the early 1960s.

“(South Bend) used to have a much more significant industrial base, [but] the jobs that have disappeared or have moved away have not been replaced by jobs that pay the same,” he said.

The lack of economic success in the area was reflective of a larger nationwide trend which has shrunk the American middle class, Graff said.

“I refer to this nationally as a chronic crisis that we’ve been dealing with, the disappearance of stable long-term middle-class jobs for 40 or 50 years now,” he said. “You usually think of a ‘crisis’ as something momentary or a short period, and it’s chronic in the sense that it’s an ongoing thing. It long predates the Pence administration, and it’s bigger than Indiana too.”

Economic Success in South Bend

When Stephanie Mirza and her husband moved back to South Bend in 2016, they decided to take a leap and decided to purchase a unique home which doubled as a bed and breakfast.

“When [my husband] found out [he] had a position [at Notre Dame] to come back to … we looked at housing and he saw this place, he’s like this is amazing,” she said. “How often do you have the opportunity to not only buy a house but buy a historic home that’s also a bed and breakfast? We met the previous owner, asked her all sorts of questions like, ‘What in the world are we doing?’ She said it’s not that bad, it’s a lot of fun so we went for it and it’s worked out.”


Since purchasing the Innisfree — an Irish-themed bed and breakfast adorned with Gaelic symbols and with rooms named after famous figures in Irish history — the Mirzas have seen booming business, something Stephanie attributed, in part, to a revitalized South Bend.

“South Bend, since we left five or six years ago, has changed a lot. We left when it was at a low point and we come back and see life and interest and attention coming to this area which is good for us, good for our business,” she said. “The river lights [are] a beautiful addition, the Four Winds [Field], that’s a big deal. I think we’re going to see a lot more business because of that.”

InnisFree photo

The Innisfree Bed and Breakfast, on the west side of South Bend, was purchased in mid 2016 by Stephanie Mirza and her husband. The inn has seen success since the in the months since it came under new ownership. (Photo/Lucas Masin-Moyer)

Mirza’s success, and that of other small businesses in the region, has been helped by city-level initiatives spearheaded by the Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Pete Buttigieg. These initiatives, Mirza said, were aimed at improving the outward appeal of business, thereby helping them to grow income.

“The city has initiatives for small business,” she said. “If you want to improve the outside of your business and you’re within this radius of downtown, you can get grants to do that. I applied for one to work on the exterior part, it can’t be just for maintenance it has to be some new signage or some new … improve the look on the street.

Overall, Mirza said operating a business in South Bend has been a positive and successful experience.

“It’s been great,” she said. “We just moved from Berkeley, California, so it’s kind of a major shift as far as cultural and things like that. But the environment here has been really receptive and positive. People really genuinely want to help out.”

Town and Gown: How Do Notre Dame and South Bend Make It Work?

By Madison Riehle and Allie Hoerster • May 14th, 2017

Before the University of Notre Dame’s economic and social influence gained traction, the city thrived off of the business and jobs created by the Studebaker automobile plant. At its height, the company employed 7,000 people, which was eight percent of South Bend in 1960, according to the Studebaker National Museum.

When the plant closed in 1963, both the population and the economy took a hit, with 20,000 residents leaving the city over 40 years, putting South Bend on Newsweek’s 2011 list of “America’s Dying Cities.”

Despite this, and due to recent pushes and changes in South Bend’s government and the sustained effort of new Notre Dame programs, South Bend is transitioning, experts and officials say.

“The city is growing and developing, it has some really positive areas.” said Jackie Burns Rucker, Associate Director of Community Relations for the University of Notre Dame. “It is a thriving community that has a large alumni population here, and has a really rich history.”

The City of South Bend and the University of Notre Dame are inextricably linked by a long-standing symbiotic relationship. As one of the largest enterprises in the St. Joseph County area, Notre Dame plays an integral role in the city’s economy, which makes community outreach initiatives and programs measures all the more important.

Juxtapose: The development of Eddy Street Commons over the last 14 years.

“There’s a symbiosis between the community and the University that we recognize more than ever, and I think communities around the country are recognizing this, so we talk a lot about the mutual benefit of our partnerships in a way that we can use our expertise on campus,” said Jay Caponigro, director of community engagement in the Office of Public Affairs at the University of Notre Dame.

The Office of Public Affairs is just one of the ways that Notre Dame has involved itself in the community. Its goal is to build, maintain and support the community of South Bend by engaging Notre Dame students with city residents. The projects that the Office of Public Affairs executes revolve around the education and enrichment of South Bend children.

“Our after-school program is very diverse—we will host events here at the center, and we have an after school program that is 2nd through 4th grade,” Rucker said about the Center for Arts and Culture. “Within the after-school program, the first hour is literacy based and the second hour is arts and culture enrichment. I utilize art and culture to try to help build relationships.”

The Center for Arts and Culture is just one of the many sites that Notre Dame students and faculty invest their time. More than 945,850 hours of community service work is performed by more than 2,250 Notre Dame students and more than 360 University faculty and staff during the 2014-15 academic year, according to a 2016 economic survey of Notre Dame.

Blue map pin iconStoryMap: Notre Dame’s impact on South Bend

Similarly, academic courses engage students with the local community through entrepreneurship opportunities and funds, as well as community-based research, which is run by the Center for Social Concerns and includes an out-of-classroom service element.

“With the community-based research, you see a lot of Catholic social teaching coming up as part of the justification for getting involved in those projects,” Caitlin Hodges, Notre Dame Student Government Director of Community Relations, said. “That’s the language you’ll see replicated at just about every level of Notre Dame when they are doing something like that.”

This kind of engagement is understood as growth in human capital — and is the most important factor for economic growth, as it leads to higher educational levels and future funds.

Aside from time investments, Notre Dame is the leading employer in the South Bend area, employing around 5,700 South Bend residents. In fiscal year 2015, the University spent nearly $168.5 million on purchases of goods and services, excluding construction, from businesses in St. Joseph County, according to a report on a 2016 economic survey of Notre Dame.

360-Degree Perspective: Step into South Bend’s southeast neighborhood.

“We know that we have to have infrastructure locally that will attract people to come to Notre Dame,” Caponigro said. “We want to make sure there are learning opportunities in the community, not just on the University campus.”

Notre Dame also focuses its community efforts on maintaining the overall look of the community, as well as ensuring that student housing does not override affordable housing in the neighboring areas.

This includes the Northeast Neighborhood Revitalization Organization, which aims to build residential housing off of Eddy Street Commons through in the Triangle Residential District. Notre Dame is also making strides to maintain housing through the Notre Dame Avenue Housing Project.

“I think that’s a big conversation right now with gentrification,” Hodges said. “what happens when so many students are moving off-campus, and there’s a really good market and that’s how you’re going to make money, but that used to be a house where a family could have afforded to live. It’s not good or bad, but it’s balancing and sometimes it feels like it’s not very well-balanced.”

Through this mutually beneficial relationship, the city has grown, both in population as well as technology as the city’s population is up for the first time since 2000. Along with this, projects like Innovation and Ignition Park have begun to expose the area to new creative solutions to city problems, as well as provide support for student and local entrepreneurs.

“At the end of the day, it’s important for our leadership at multiple levels,” Caponigro said. “If our community doesn’t succeed, Notre Dame will not succeed — not at the level that we want to.”

Study Says 7.6 Percent of Indiana’s Bridges Are Structurally Deficient

By Caelin Miltko • April 12th, 2017

The average age of a bridge in the United States is 43 years old and almost 4 in 10 are over 50 years old. Part of Barack Obama’s 2013 infrastructure plan dealt with the bridge problem in the United States.

The Department of Transportation tracks structurally deficient and functionally obsolete bridges annually.

A structurally deficient bridge requires significant maintenance, repair or rehabilitation. It is not necessarily unsafe but may become so over time. A functionally obsolete bridge may be too narrow, may not have adequate shoulders or other design flaws. Official definitions can be found here.

In the infographic below, the condition of Indiana’s bridges is explored in detail as compared to the national standards.

Data: Numbers Tell the Full Story of President Obama’s Legacy

By Lucas Masin-Moyer • April 7th, 2017

Much of President Donald Trump’s campaign for the nation’s highest office was based upon undoing the policies and programs that had been enacted by President Barack Obama. The domestic legacy left by President Obama can be divided into four major policy areas — economic, debt and deficit reduction, immigration and healthcare.

In the wake of the financial crisis of 2007-08, Obama was faced with a market hemorrhaging jobs, with the unemployment rate reaching double digits in mid 2009. By the beginning of Obama’s second term, economic growth had picked up and unemployment continued to fall, reaching 4.8% in the last month of his presidency. While some of the spending Obama used to try and stimulate the economy increased the deficit early on, by the end of his presidency, the deficit had shrunk dramatically.

With Congress’ recent failure to institute a new healthcare policy meaning that Obama’s  Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) will stay the law of the land, perhaps the most enduring legacy of the Obama years will center around healthcare policy. Since Obama assumed office, as a result of the law, despite rising costs, the uninsured rate in the United States has dropped from 16.2 percent to 8.8 percent.

Where Obama and President may have overlapped most in policy is, in contrary to political rhetoric, immigration policy. While Trump’s claims to “build a wall” were far more dramatic than any Obama administration statements on immigration policy, the administration deported more immigrants than any other in American history.

Infographic: Visa Requirements for U.S. Citizens Vary by Destination

By Emily McConville • April 6th, 2017

If you are an American citizen, travel is easy. Over 100 countries offer visa-free entry to Americans, while dozens of others issue visas on arrival.

All travel, however, is governed by bilateral agreements taking into account internal and international politics, supranational organizations, health and safety.

This infographic outlines some of the things Americans need to do to travel to each country.

Indiana Unemployment Rate Continues to Dive, Lowest Since 2001

By Joe DiSipio • March 3rd, 2017

An analysis of monthly reports of the Indiana unemployment rates during the Obama administration illustrates the lingering recovery from the 2008 financial crisis.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics captures the sharp increase of joblessness as the Great Recession hit hard in 2009. But it also shows that despite political rhetoric, Indiana may have reached a level of recovery under President Obama.

Much of the 2016 presidential campaign rhetoric centered on the economy, specifically on the creation of jobs in the industrial Midwest.

Jobs were an issue of particular interest to voters in Indiana. At the height of the Great Recession, unemployment levels reached a high of 10.9 percent in June 2009.


Compared to the BLS national averages, Indiana started at a lower level but once the effects of the crisis set in, it averaged an unemployment rate of almost a full percentage point higher than that of the country as a whole.

Voters didn’t forget that feeling of desperation between 2009 and 2014. The “America First” candidate Donald Trump was able to capitalize on that lingering feeling while the data shows that Indiana unemployment levels actually fell to below 2009 rates by the end of President Obama’s term.

 Trump based some of his candidacy on bringing back jobs. He followed through  with his controversial Carrier deal during the transition in November 2016.

Study: Indianapolis Among Top 10 Cities for School Choice

By Cassidy McDonald • March 2nd, 2017

School choice —a movement to provide alternatives to public school — is sure to be a top priority for President Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, during his first joint address to Congress, Trump called for a bipartisan school choice bill which would aim to help disadvantaged children trapped in failing schools. Indianapolis is one of the top U.S. cities for giving parents a choice on where to attend schoo.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made headlines this week, however, when she called historically black colleges and universities — which were created in response to racial segregation — “pioneers” of school choice.

She later backpedaled on this statement, but continued to draw parallels between school choice and historically black colleges and universities.

Take a look at the top 10 cities that currently allow some form of school choice, as graded by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an ideologically conservative research organization.

These cities have seen mixed results in their alternative education programs, but offer the policies, public support and programming most conducive to school choice:

(City rankings from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute)

Map: Buttigieg’s Campaign Trail for Democratic National Committee Chairman

By Lucas Masin-Moyer • February 26th, 2017

In a surprise move, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg dropped out of the race for Chair of the Democratic Committee (DNC) Chairman on Feb. 25, and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, was elected.

Despite Perez’s election it was Buttigieg, heralded as the future of the Democratic Party, who perhaps made the most noise.

Buttigieg, the first openly gay executive in the state of Indiana, former Rhodes Scholar and veteran of the War in Afghanistan, campaigned across the country in his unsuccessful bid to run the Democratic Party.

Over the course of his campaign, Buttigieg received endorsements from former DNC Chairmen Howard Dean and Ed Rendell. Track Buttigieg’s campaign trips in this interactive map: