Players and coaches of several girls’ college basketball teams called the NCAA on Thursday for the uneven access it provided to weight rooms and equipment during the March craze.
Men’s teams have access to a full weight room during their NCAA tournament in Indiana.
Women’s teams, on the other hand, don’t have access to any weight room until Sweet 16, several performance coaches have said.
In the meantime, their accommodations are meager. Women’s basketball “only has access to 1 stationary bike and a” weight pyramid “for the first 2 rounds,” Texas Sports Performance Director Zack Zillner said on twitter.
Ali Kershner, the top-seeded Stanford performance coach, posted a comparison of the two setups on Instagram.
“This needs to be sorted out,” she wrote. “These women want and deserve to be given the same opportunities.”
The heaviest weights on the pyramid, according to Kershner, are 30 pounds.
The weight rooms that will be available to women’s teams if they upgrade to Sweet 16 will include two bikes, a treadmill, adjustable benches, weight racks, bars and dumbbells.
South Carolina’s No. 1 seeded performance coach Molly Binetti says the dumbbells will be “up to 50 [pounds] because women cannot lift more than that ”, like her wrote, probably sarcastically, on Twitter.
The NCAA’s response
When asked about the inequalities, the NCAA did not address them directly, but released the following statement, attributed to NCAA Women’s Basketball Vice President Lynn Holzman:
“We recognize that some of the equipment teams would generally have access to not having been so available in the controlled environment. This is in part due to the limited space and the original plan was to expand the practice area once more space became available later in the tournament. However, we want to be responsive to the needs of our participating teams, and we are actively working to improve existing resources at the training grounds, including additional weight training equipment. “
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire men’s tournament is taking place in and around Indianapolis. The entire women’s tournament takes place in and around San Antonio.
In Indianapolis, a huge convention center houses 12 training grounds and six full-size weight rooms. Teams can reserve training spaces for blocks of time. Strength trainers seem to be happy with what they have at their disposal:
In San Antonio – where the entire convention center is significantly larger than the one in Indianapolis, but the exhibition hall floor is slightly smaller – there are large spaces that, Thursday afternoon, remain for most unoccupied.
More criticism, more inequalities
Central Oregon Sedona Prince posted a video on social media expose the differences, and “all that extra space” that, Thursday afternoon, was not being used:
An NCAA representative told Yahoo Sports that organizers initially didn’t believe there was enough space for dedicated weight rooms. But after a walking tour of the convention center on Wednesday, they realized there was actually space for weightlifting equipment next to the training grounds.
It’s unclear why this walkthrough didn’t happen until Wednesday, after some teams had already arrived in San Antonio, and four days before the tournament started.
Prince too posted videos on social networks which appeared to show inequalities between the food available for the men’s and women’s teams. Some players are would have “eat only the snacks they brought”, rather than the meals provided.
According to UConn coach Geno Auriemma, there are also inequalities in COVID-19 testing. women’s teams, he said on a conference call with reporters, receive antigen testing, while male teams get the most accurate PCR tests. An NCAA spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the testing inequalities.
NCAA committee calls for investigation
On Friday, the NCAA Women’s Track and Field Committee sent out a letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert to call for an “independent investigation into how this situation arose.”
“I am writing to express the committee’s shock and disappointment at the disparate treatment of our student-athletes,” wrote committee chair Suzette McQueen, “and the inequitable availability of strength training facilities. This seems to extend to the options. limited food and other tournaments related amenities.
“The NCAA has acknowledged that this was ‘disrespectful.’ In the committee’s view, it’s more than that. It undermines the NCAA’s authority as promoter and guarantor of Title IX protections, and it brings back women’s collegiate athletics across the country. “
“It deserves attention,” Kershner, the Stanford coach, wrote in his post. “In a year defined by a fight for equality, this is a chance to have a conversation and to improve.”
Ross Bjork, Sporting Director of Texas A&M rang: “I appreciate that [NCAA women’s basketball] staff are working on a solution but it is unacceptable to begin with. “
“If you’re not upset with this problem,” Prince said, “then you are.”
Speaking to reporters in Indianapolis on Friday, NCAA President Mark Emmert addressed the inequalities. He called the disparities in bodybuilding “inexcusable” and “deeply disappointing.”
“I want to be very clear”, Emmert told The New York Times, The Athletic and USA Today. “It’s not something that should have happened, and if we were to host a tournament like this again, it would never happen again.”
NCAA Men’s Basketball Vice President Dan Gavitt also took on the responsibility. “We intentionally organized basketball under one roof (at the NCAA) to ensure consistency and collaboration,” he said in a statement. “When we don’t meet those expectations, it’s up to me.
“I apologize to the girls’ basketball student-athletes, coaches and the women’s basketball committee for dropping the ball in the weight rooms in San Antonio.”
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