NCAA to review men’s and women’s disparities

The NCAA has retained a law firm to examine the level of resources at each of its championships.

A week after those at the NCAA women’s basketball tournament pointed out how the accommodations in San Antonio were not up to the level of the accommodations in Indianapolis for the men’s basketball tournament, the NCAA said Thursday that it had hired Kaplan Hecker & Fink to examine the accommodations at all of its championship events.

“The NCAA will continue to aggressively address material and impactful differences between the Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. “While many of the operational issues identified have been resolved, we must continue to make sure we are doing all we can to support gender equity in sports. As part of this effort, we are evaluating the current and previous resource allocation to each championship so we have a clear understanding of costs, spend and revenue.”

Participants at the women’s tournament noted how the weight room available to those at the men’s tournament dwarfed a scant setup of a dumbbell rack and yoga mats at the women’s tournament. Other social media posts pointed out apparent differing levels in food quality as well as apparent differences in the swag that players got at each tournament.

Oregon’s Sedona Price was the first to make the difference in accommodations widely known in a viral TikTok video.

The NCAA was called out harshly by many directly involved in women’s basketball, including South Carolina coach and legendary player Dawn Staley. Georgia Tech coach Nell Fortner accused the NCAA of considering the women’s tournament “an afterthought” and UConn coach Geno Auriemma noted that the type of COVID-19 tests used at the men’s tournament are considered more accurate than the tests used at the women’s tournament.

The NCAA addressed the weight room issue after complaints became public, though that reaction should have been a proactive move. Making sure that everything was comparable would have saved the NCAA the cost of an investigation by a law firm and spared itself from a lot of criticism. Though Emmert did try to say earlier in the week that the yoga mats and dumbbell rack at the women’s tournament contrasted with the men’s weight room was not a weight room but an “exercise room.”

A week ago, senior vice president for basketball Dan Gavitt apologized for the disparities between the two tournaments.

“We have intentionally organized basketball under one umbrella [at the NCAA] to ensure consistency and collaboration. When we fall short on these expectations, it’s on me,” Gavitt said in a statement. “I apologize to women’s basketball student-athletes, coaches and the women’s basketball committee for dropping the ball on the weight rooms in San Antonio.”

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