Women's college-level basketball is gaining popularity amongst live and television audiences.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association women's basketball tournament begins this Saturday, and The New York Times has reported that the competition is attracting more crowds to its live games and registering higher-then-ever television ratings. The upswing is likely to continue with more young female players training for national competition-level basketball and four women's college teams having rated No. 1 on The Associated Press Poll of college teams since January 5.
"The women's game is evolving at a rapid rate and at a high level, much like the men did in the early 1980's," says Doug Elgin, commissioner of the Missouri Valley Conference that hosts programs and competitions for student athletes. "Much of it has to do with numbers--more young girls are playing and getting better instruction at earlier ages."
There has also been an increase in enrollment by female basketball stars in colleges other than the traditional basketball colleges--Connecticut, Stanford, Tennessee--indicating a wider range of educational possibilities for upcoming competitors.
The rise in recognition comes at the same time as a drop in interest in men's college basketball. With more college-level players jumping to the National Basketball Association, and fewer basketball stars attending college, the state of the men's game is in decline at a college level.
Protesters have been arrested outside a church trial that may remove a lesbian minister from her post at a Methodist church in Bothell, Wash.
Rev. Karen Dammann, who leads the Bothell United Methodist Church, was married last week to her partner of nine years, Meredith Savage, in Portland, Oregon, where the Multnomah County officials have begun allowing same sex marriages, reports The Associated Press. She is being tried within her denomination because church rules bar ordination of homosexuals who are open about their sexual orientation.
United Methodist officials say that it's against church law for ministers to be practicing homosexuals, reports The Associated Press.
Thirty-three non-violent protesters, holding placards and singing hymns in protest of the trial going ahead, were arrested this week and led away in plastic handcuffs. Among them were members of the national interfaith group Soulforce, which is dedicated to stopping "spiritual violence" against gays and lesbians.
"You are about to assault a person's humanity, her dignity, the essential dignity God has given her," the group's chair, Rev. Jimmy Creech, a former Methodist minister in Nebraska, said. "You are putting her on trial not because of anything she has done, but because of who she is."
On Friday, church officials admitting that church law and the charge against Dammann are in conflict. Although church law prohibits ordination of homosexuals, the church's social principles support rights and liberties for homosexuals.
-- Emma Pearse.