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At N.C.A.A. Tournament, Unequal Facilities for Women Athletes

todayMarch 19, 2021 2

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“If you’re not upset about this problem, then you are a part of it,” Prince said.

The N.C.A.A.’s apology came after an onslaught of online criticism. Ali Kershner, a sports performance coach at Stanford, posted images on Thursday of a cavernous weight-room set up at the men’s tournament, where teams will be living in a Covid-19 bubble, and the sparse facility at the women’s tournament in San Antonio.

Despite each competition fielding at least 64 teams, the men were given dumbbells and barbells and squat machines arranged in what appeared to be a hotel ballroom, while the women were only given a rack of 14 dumbbells, none heavier than 30 pounds.

“The women want and deserve to be given the same opportunities,” Kershner wrote in her online post. “In a year defined by a fight for equality, this is a chance to have a conversation and get better.”

By Friday morning, with the public furor building and the N.C.A.A. already battered by years of pressure over student-athlete rights, the association offered unmitigated regrets — a striking, sudden comedown for an organization frequently criticized for insularity and defiance.

The evidence of unequal treatment came during a week when student-athletes were already using the moment to air their grievances with the N.C.A.A. regarding how players may profit off their fame. Earlier in the week, players began tweeting with the hashtag #NotNCAAProperty to protest the association’s rules. Although much of that dissent has been publicly concentrated around the men’s tournament, it had also surfaced in the women’s competition.

The men’s tournament is the crown jewel for the N.C.A.A., which will draw more than $850 million in television rights from it this year alone. The women’s tournament, by comparison, is just one part of a multisport broadcast deal worth nearly $42 million this fiscal year.

Ross Bjork, the athletic director at Texas A&M, a No. 2 seed in the women’s tournament, said that while he appreciated the N.C.A.A.’s promise to improve the facilities, “this is unacceptable to begin with.”

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