It would be funny how intent the NCAA seems to be on showing how little it respects Division I women's basketball players if it weren't so damn insulting to those same women, not to mention the coaches and staff that together dedicate their lives to getting to the national championship tournament.
Because at this point, after days of backlash not just from those student athletes but from retired Hall of Fame coaches, sports icons, and current coaches who were Hall of Famers as players, and not just excuses from NCAA leadership but continued slights, there's no assumption to make besides this all being intentional.
On Sunday, there were 16 first-round games played, with all four No. 1 seeds in action.
But when you visit the NCAA's password-protected digital media hub to access things like postgame Zoom conferences and action shots, there was not a single picture from any of those games.
No pictures of UConn's star freshman Paige Beuckers, who had 24 points, nine rebounds and six assists in the Huskies' rout of High Point. No photos of Syracuse's inspirational, cancer-beating guard Tiana Mangakahia dishing out one of her seven assists against South Dakota State. No shots of South Carolina coach Dawn Staley directing her players in their 26-point win over Mercer.
As of this writing, all that's available for media to download is the logo for this year's San Antonio bubble tournament.
Unsurprisingly, there are 222 photos from the second round of the men's tournament alone, plus hundreds more from the first four and first round games.
According to the NCAA, photos and interview transcripts won't be available for the women's games until the Sweet 16 games and beyond, with the organization claiming it doesn't have the staff and budget to cover every round of every championship.
That's a choice, another terrible one for an organization rife with them.
There were photographers at the men's First Four, but not the first two rounds of the women's tournament. The NCAA is telling even the top women's programs that they're not important enough to spend resources on, but a No. 16 vs. No. 16 play-in game between Texas Southern and Mount St. Mary's is.
No offense to those two schools, but really?
And once again the NCAA is choosing to treat the women's tournament — which in non-COVID times has meant sold-out arenas and a growing television audience, and is part of a package ESPN is paying $500 million to have the rights to — like a nuisance, like something it has to do instead of something it wants to do, when it should be doing everything it can to promote the women as much as it does the men.
Here's the thing: The way the ecosystem goes, if there isn't game information there to disseminate, the media can't disseminate it. If there aren't transcripts and photos from the Georgia Tech-Stephen F. Austin overtime game, then it makes it a lot harder for one of the smaller outlets who might otherwise put together a story on the game to do so.
If you make it difficult for media outlets to run stories and photographs of women's games, then they won't get coverage in media, thus missing an opportunity to grow interest and the audience.
(And at minimum, you money-grubbing empty suits, the more interest there is, the more money the NCAA can get from ESPN or another network, money it doesn't give to the players who actually play the games these networks pay to air.)
See how that works?
In case you need proof, at one point on Sunday, four of the top five sports stories on the Washington Post website were about women's basketball. Kind of an "if you write it, they will read" sort of deal.
I'd tell NCAA head Mark Emmert and Co. to pay attention, but even being shamed does little to affect their embarrassingly bad behavior. Emmert already tried to excuse away something as blatant as using less-accurate COVID antigen tests for the women vs. using PCR tests for the men, so it seems like it would be asking too much to paying a couple of young, aspiring sports photographers to spend a week in the women's bubble for the opening rounds, or spring for a transcription service, or make sure that a nursing mother who may be in the bubble for up to a month doesn't have to choose between her infant and her job.
As Billie Jean King posted to Twitter on Friday, the days of expecting female athletes to accept crumbs are long over. We deserve equity and equality — especially from an organization that purports to encourage the well-being and success of all athletes that play at its member institutions.
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