Co-rec intramural leagues juggle gender bias in sports

Junior mechanical engineering major James Lowrey takes a three-point shot in an intramural basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 29, in the newly renovated CU Student Recreation Center (Matt Sisneros/CU Independent)
Junior mechanical engineering major James Lowrey takes a three-point shot in an intramural basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 29, in the newly renovated CU Recreation Center. (Matt Sisneros/CU Independent)

Peter Grover still remembers his first co-rec intramural basketball game. His team was up by three points with the last seconds of the game ticking away. The opposing team made one last push with a fast break down the court, and a male member of the team lobbed a three-pointer just before the buzzer.

Grover watched the ball clang off the rim and into the hands of the female player he was guarding. She proceeded to drive the ball for a layup. Grover, not wanting to be a bad sport, didn’t think to block her. The game ended.

Even though Grover’s team had been up by three, the game ended in a tie. He’d forgotten layups counted as three points for the female players, and regular season games don’t permit overtime.

Grover, a 20-year-old junior, said the rules can be frustrating.

“I understand why they do it, because girls would literally never get the ball if they didn’t,” he said. “It’s worth it to pass the ball to a girl and take the chance that they’ll make it. But we’ve also played against teams where they never passed the ball to a girl.”

Co-rec intramural teams permit both male and female players and have a specialized set of rules for each sport. The co-rec clarifications section of the Student Recreation Center intramural basketball rules states that females will be awarded four points for shots taken behind the three-point line, three points for all other field goals and two points for each free throw.

In addition to the scoring differentials, the rules say that “teams may have no more than three players and no less than one of either gender on the court at all times.”

Similar rules exist for other sports. For co-rec flag football, a touchdown by a female player is worth nine points and can be scored any one of three ways: a legal forward pass by a female quarterback to a player who crosses the goal line; a legal forward pass by a quarterback of either gender to a female player who crosses the goal line; or a female running the ball crossing the goal line.

If a “male-to-male” play is executed (a play between two male players of the same team in which yardage is gained), the next play must be “closed,” meaning a female player must be involved in the advancement of the ball for positive yardage.

Increasing female participation in sports is a nationwide initiative for athletes of all ages and levels of competition. Title IX, a portion of the 1972 Education Amendments, states that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, the law imposes a three-part test to assess an institution’s compliance in providing equal athletic opportunities for female and male students: the proportionality of participants in reference to enrollment numbers, whether the institution has demonstrated the continuing practice of program expansion and if the “underrepresented” gender is being accommodated by existing programs.

The foundation, citing a 900-percent increase in women’s participation in high school sports since the law was enacted in 1972, states that a lack of opportunity, not interest, was the reason behind lagging female student participation at the collegiate level before Title IX.

The trouble now is determining how to treat teammates fairly, as intramural sports tries to find a balance between equality and recognition of the different genders. It’s a concern that 20-year-old junior Paige Kelly, a co-rec basketball participant, said she struggles with every season.

“It’s almost like they don’t expect the girls to be decent at the sport,” Kelly said.

Kelly, who played basketball in high school and has been around the sport much of her life, feels the rules are unfairly biased and frustrate all of the participants. She said it wasn’t uncommon to hear the opposing team complaining over losses because of the different point values.

“We’re all there for the same reason, and that’s to play basketball,” Kelly said. “Instead, they still treat it as if when a girl scores, it should be different. It changes the way the game is played.”

Kelly said that girls know what they’re signing up for when they join a co-rec league, and while the rules may encourage male participants to be more inclusive of women, it ultimately detracts from the game. It’s a team sport, Kelly said, and therefore should be played on equal terms.

At the end of the day, Peter Grover said, even though the system is flawed, it’s what one has to deal with when playing in a co-rec league, and a passion for the game remains the most important element of intramural sports.

“It’s a love-hate relationship,” he said. “It’s still basketball, as far as I’m concerned.”

Contact CU Independent Features Editor Steven Grossman at

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