CINCINNATI - The University of Cincinnati athletics department is under fire from critics who say it's discriminating against female athletes.
That's because while Fifth Third Arena is being overhauled, the women's basketball and volleyball teams will be playing at St. Ursula Academy's high school gym while the men's basketball team will play at the BB&T Arena at Northern Kentucky University.
Critics say it’s a bad decision at best and a violation of Title IX at worst.
Women's basketball players and volleyball players play just as hard as the men do and are held to all of the same standards, says Tamaya Dennard, a UC fan and booster.
For Dennard, it's about perception.
"The (St. Ursula) gym is awesome, but a Division I athlete has no business playing in that gym and that's basically what it boils down to," Dennard said.
Perception or not, St. Ursula's spokesperson Jill Cahill says the gym is better than most high school gyms.
"We built this gym from the beginning with the plans to be NCAA compliant, which it is, so it has more bells and whistles and spacing than many other facilities around the region,” she said.
That's not good enough for Dennard, who is running for Cincinnati City Council.
"We have Cincinnati State that's down the street, we have Thomas More … it doesn't have to be at a high school and it doesn't necessarily have to be at US Bank Arena, but I think we need to make sure we explore everything and I don't feel confident that that happened," Dennard said.
UC Director of Athletics Mike Bohn said scheduling was the “biggest driver” behind the decision.
"When we worked with US Bank Arena, we talked about both the men and the women there, but that model didn't make any sense for us for a lot of reasons,” Bohn said.
Some experts say UC is violating Title IX, but no formal complaint has been made.
“It’s complex and we recognize not every option is perfect, but by no means are we doing anything but respecting our student-athletes, particularly our women,” Bohn said.
The athletic department told WCPO the university is caught between two difficult choices - play at the high school and get criticized, or spend more money at a larger facility and get criticized.
Either way, UC says it is committed to its decision.