Shots missed

NCAA women’s basketball tournament fixes deemed “inadequate”

Isabella Tranello, Sports Editor

Illustration of balanced NCAA spending scale between men and women by Mia Eshima

The 2021 NCAA women’s March Madness basketball tournament brought many disparities between the men’s and women’s tournaments to the spotlight. The unequal treatment of the men and women athletes caused a viral outcry on many social media platforms, especially TikTok. 

University of Oregon athlete Sedona Prince was the one to reveal the biggest disparity between the two tournaments. She was the first to expose the unequal treatment when she posted a video of the differences in gym sizes for women and men through her TikTok account, which now has 3.1 million followers. 

The NCAA initially cited the disparities as being because of space, but Prince revealed that there was plenty of unused space to build a proper gym for the women. 

Prince’s exposure to the blatantly inadequate gyms provided to female athletes was not the only thing exposed to the public about the two tournaments. After Prince’s initial exposure, many others spoke out and revealed that swag bags (merchandise and gifts given to athletes in the tournament) and meal accommodations were also not equal. 

While the men got buffets full of warm food, the women received plastic containers of poorly prepared meals that were of substantially lower quality. 

Since this incident, the NCAA has apologized to the women and teams involved in their basketball tournament and has made efforts to change the 2022 women’s tournament. 

Unfortunately for the NCAA, congressional leaders who dealt with the NCAA’s initiative to rectify its mistakes have labeled their efforts as “inadequate” and even “lackluster.” in a six-page letter addressed to NCAA President Mark Emmert. 

“NCAA’s lackluster response to key recommendations is particularly concerning in light of documents previously released by the Committee showing that NCAA ignored similar recommendations from at least four prior reviews over three decades,” read the letter.

According to the Washington Post, the letter was sent on Monday, March 14, just before the tournament was set to begin.

However, they state that the three congressional leaders who wrote the letter, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Jackie Speier and co-chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus Mikie Sherrill, believe the NCAA has only made “short-term steps” and have barely touched the surface on promoting gender equity in their organization.

“With the 2022 March Madness tournaments commencing in the coming days, we urge NCAA’s leadership to publicly commit to the rapid implementation of the remaining Kaplan recommendations to advance gender equity across all of the organization’s athletic programs and ensure that no student-athlete has to endure the inequities exposed during last year’s tournaments,” read the letter. 

Although the tournaments seem to be more equal in 2022 and the disparities, such as disproportionate workout facilities, cited in 2021 have been solved, these fixes and the expansion of the number of women’s teams from 64 to 68 are not enough for these congressional leaders. They still believe that the NCAA is “violating the spirit of Title IX,” which prohibits sex-based discrimination in educational systems funded by the federal government. 

Senior nursing major Reena Sidhu has limited experience with sports and the NCAA March Madness tournaments but believes that the organization needs to be held accountable for its actions if the unfair treatment persists.

“I do not know much about this tournament or sports. However, I do believe that all athletes should be treated equally, even in sports,” Sidhu said. “Lack of gender equity should not be a problem anymore, but because this is still happening it shows that a lot of work still needs to be done. I am glad that these congress members are holding the NCAA accountable.”

Following this letter, internal emails have been given to lawmakers that disclose how the NCAA dealt with the viral backlash and outline their responses to sponsors and non-sponsors who wanted to donate meals to the basketball players competing in San Antonio in 2021. The emails showed that the NCAA declined most offers until corporate sponsors such as Wendy’s and Buffalo Wild Wings stepped in to help. 

These corporate sponsors were already supplying the men’s tournament, so it made sense for them to sponsor the women too. 

According to Sports Illustrated, on Thursday, March 31, two days before the Final Four games, the same three congressional members introduced a bill that would launch an investigation into the NCAA’s gender equity within their operations of tournaments, championships and other programs that have both women’s and men’s divisions. 

A committee of 16 congressional members will be assigned to the task of reporting on the NCAA’s overall efforts of improving gender equity and will determine if they are continuing to mistreat their female athletes in all sports, not just basketball. This report should be concluded 12 to 18 months after its establishment and all findings must be honestly represented to determine if the NCAA has failed to meet gender equity standards established by The Gender Equity in College Sports Commission Act. 

“Despite a directive to “act urgently to address any organizational issues” that contribute to gender inequity within NCAA championship tournaments, you have failed to take meaningful steps to correct deficiencies identified by the Committee and by an outside review, and you have failed to ensure gender equity across NCAA’s athletic programs,” read the letter.