Kent State apologizes following national backlash over stopped field hockey game


Murphy-Mellis Field, home of the Kent State field hockey team, viewed looking north over the edge of Dix Stadium.

Gina Butkovich

Kent State made national news this week after stopping a NCAA Division 1 field hockey game between the University of Maine and Temple University in order to set off fireworks for the Kent State football game.

Maine and Temple had gone into double overtime when a Kent State official came onto the field, citing fire marshall regulations as reason for calling the game. Temple’s coach Susan Ciufo said in an interview with The Temple News that Kent State officials denied the teams’ suggestion to go directly into a shootout to determine a winner. Kent State officials offered to complete the game at 5:30 p.m. and pay hotel costs for the Temple team, but the teams declined.

The game was then classified as an exhibition match, not affecting either teams record or standing, and the daytime fireworks went off exactly as planned. 

Kent State originally put out a statement on Saturday that did not include an apology.  

The statement read, “We regret today’s game had to be stopped during overtime play per field guidelines as previously discussed. We recognize the hard work and dedication of all student-athletes. The safety of our community, including student-athletes and visitors is always our first consideration.”

After considerable backlash from the National Field Hockey Coaches Association and national news attention, Kent State’s Athletic Director Joel Nielson released a statement apologizing to the University of Maine and Temple University on Monday. 

In part, the new statement reads “we will take this opportunity to learn from this experience. 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.”

The NFHCA’s statement said “while both programs were made aware of the 10:30 a.m. stoppage of play via a May 2019 email, Kent State University failed to communicate the steps that would be taken should the 10:30 a.m. hard stop be reached. The NFHCA Office has reviewed the game contract and cannot find any reference to the 10:30 a.m. hard stop nor can we find any information regarding what would happen if the game was not completed prior to reaching the ‘drop dead’ time.”

It also asks Kent State University to “do some soul searching and take responsibility for the lack of judgment and poor-decision making.”

Contact Gina Butkovich at [email protected].