Mark Emmert on women's tournament failings: 'We can't let down these amazing athletes ever again'

Ryan Young
·4 min read

With the stark differences between both the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments brought to light this year, NCAA president Mark Emmert again on Wednesday promised to help close the gap between not just the two tournaments, but all men’s and women’s NCAA sports moving forward.

With how the two tournaments were set up this year, though, he admitted that the NCAA “dropped the ball” — something it can’t do again.

“How do we make up for those shortcomings from this day going forward and create the kind of gender equity we all talk about to make sure it’s a reality and not just language?” Emmert said, via USA Today. “And we have to do that. I have to do that. We can't let down these amazing athletes ever again.”

NCAA conducting an official review

Players and coaches, and plenty of others throughout the sports world, slammed the NCAA earlier this month for the unequal access and pathetic weight room and equipment it provided to the women’s teams in San Antonio — where the entire tournament is taking place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coaches said that players at the event didn’t have access to a weight room of any kind until the Sweet 16, and said they were only given one stationary bike, a small weight pyramid and a stack of sanitized yoga mats.

Differences between gift bags, meals and even coronavirus testing were pointed out, too.

“Obviously, I wish that there had been both from me and everybody greater attention to exactly what was going on on both platforms, so that we didn’t have these issues, whether it was the weight room issue or the food differentials,” Emmert said, via USA Today. "Those things just shouldn’t happen and we could have and should’ve avoided the and we didn’t. That’s a miss on my part, on everybody’s part. We were really focused on getting through this during a pandemic and weren’t focused on the kind of equity we needed to be. The thing I’m most regretful for is we didn’t catch it up front.”

The NCAA has since hired an outside law firm to conduct an independent review of all of its championships.

“While the gender equity review we need to do has to begin and focus on women’s basketball, it’s not going to be only about women’s basketball,” Emmert said, via USA Today. “Women’s basketball, like men's basketball, those are the two marquee sports for the NCAA championships, and if you don’t get those right, you’re not going to get anything right and my commitment to that is unequivocal. It has to be gender equity across the board.”

NCAA President Mark Emmert
NCAA President Mark Emmert sits next to photo cutouts in the stands while watching the Stanford-Louisville game in the Elite Eight at the NCAA women's basketball tournament at the Alamodome on March 30, 2021, in San Antonio, Texas. (Justin Tafoya via Getty Images)

Emmert fine if women’s tournament uses ‘March Madness’ branding

Though not as blatant of an issue as the weight rooms, the fact that only the men’s tournament uses the official March Madness branding and Twitter handle has become one of the key differences in the events pointed out in recent weeks.

Emmert said Wednesday that the NCAA has already started discussing integrating both tournaments under the same branding, but insisted that there was nothing ever stopping the women’s tournament form using the March Madness logos and terminology it wants.

“If the women’s basketball committee wants it used, there’s no reason they can’t use it,” Emmert said, via USA Today. “Similarly, Final Four is used by both, and if one wants to use the logo with a gender identifier is up to the committee, and they can do whatever they want to do with those things. The details of how and why those decisions were made, we'll get to through our review.

“I'm committed to making sure we use the marks as effectively as we can in promoting the NCAA.”

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