Cal field hockey takes next step in long field journey

Daniel Kim /Senior Staff

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After Cal field hockey owned the the title “the team without a field” for four years, the team finally has a place that is starting to look like home in the new and improved Underhill Field. Friday’s game against Syracuse will be the first time the team will get to show up and show off in front of fans at the complex.

It is no secret that at most colleges, football is the main attraction, and other sports fall victim to its popularity and high-generating revenue. Cal’s field hockey team was one such sport that took a hard hit as it was forced from its home, Maxwell Family Field, in 2013 by Cal Athletics to make way for Cal football as an additional practice field.

From 2013 to 2015, the field hockey team bounced from place to place, with no permanent home in sight. Rival school Stanford became the team’s temporary fix for all home games. The travel to the school deprived the team of valuable practice hours and totaled a cost of $200,000 over two years, and the fiscal trouble was just the tip of the iceberg.

“It was killing us,” said head coach Shellie Onstead. “We weren’t in competition mode, we were in survival mode.”

Not only did the team suffer from a lack of routine and no real place to call home, the relocation also took a toll on the cohesion of the team. Onstead estimates that about 20 percent of players either decommitted or left the program during relocation.

Even with all the obstacles, the team managed to push through and produced a 8-11 record in the 2014 season and a 9-10 record 2015 season, showcasing their resilience and dedication to their craft. But decent wasn’t good enough for a once top-rated team in the nation.

While the team now has a field on UC Berkeley’s campus in Underhill Field, a converted recreational field, lingering tremors from the field troubles still exist going into the 2017 season. During the years where Cal field hockey had no field to play on, players advocated that they were being discriminated against.

“This would never happen to another sport,” said Monica Marrazzo, a former two-time captain of the team.

Title IX is the federal statute that mandates gender equity in institutional funding for collegiate athletics. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights opened an investigation into the Cal’s athletic department and its handling of the situation for alleged violations the title.

The investigation was a result of six players filing a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in 2015. The campus paid about $49,000 to cover the legal fees of the players who filed the Title IX suit

The campus and the players who had filed the Title IX complaint developed a resolution to the conflict. They drafted a settlement, that stated the following:

  1. The campus would complete Underhill Field, including a regulation playing field, scoreboard, sound system, parking, storage, permanent stands and press platform.
  1. The campus would develop plans to build permanent team rooms near Underhill and create a schedule for those plans.
  1. The campus would agree to pay for the cost of team members’ delayed graduation, as some were unable to take core major classes because of commutes to Stanford for two years.
  1. In exchange, once the agreement’s first point was completed, the players would request that the Department of Education end its ongoing Title IX investigation, and once all points were completed, the players would forfeit their right to sue the campus for damages.

With a big win off the field, the Bears can devote their time to their play on the field without worrying about a long-term home. A new field will act as a clean slate for the field hockey team, which looks to get back in a groove and reclaim the elite caliber it once held.

Christie Aguilar is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].