NCAA apologizes for 'dropping the ball' on weight room discrepancy at men's, women's tournaments

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The NCAA issued an apology on Friday after images of disparate training conditions at the men's and women's NCAA basketball tournaments made news.

Players and coaches shared pictures on social media Thursday comparing the weight room at the men's NCAA tournament in Indianapolis and the women's tournament being held in San Antonio.

The men's weight room appears to be fully equipped with multiples sets of free weights, dumbbells and machines. The women's weight room consists a single set of six dumbbells.

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NCAA VP: 'I apologize to the women's basketball athletes'

The NCAA issued statements on Friday from vice president of women's basketball Lynn Holzman and vice president of men's basketball Dan Gavitt addressing the issue. Images of the weight room went viral on social media starting Thursday night.

"As a former women's basketball student-athlete, it's always been my priority to make this event the best possible experience for everyone involved," Holzman said, per the statement. "We fell short this year in waht we've been doing to prepare in the past 60 days for 64 teams to be here in San Antonio."

Gavitt apologized for "dropping the ball."

"We have intentionally organized basketball under one umbrella (at the NCAA) to ensure consistency and collaboration," Gavitt wrote, per the statement. "When we fall short on these expectations, it's on me.

"I apologize to the women's basketball student-athletes, coaches and the women's basketball committee for dropping the ball on the weight rooms in San Antonio."

A video board with the March Madness logo
The NCAA has not yet announced a specific plan to address the inequity between the men's and womwhat en's tournaments.on (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley slams NCAA

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley issued a strong statement slamming Emmert and the NCAA on Friday afternoon. 

Staley, who is also the women's Team USA coach, called out the weight room differences and several other inequities she sees between the two tournaments — including the NCAA's @MarchMadness Twitter handle, which only represents the men's tournament. 

"How do we explain that to our players? How can an organization that claims to care about ALL member institutions' student-athlete experiences have a copyrighted term that only 'represents' one gender?" she said in the statement, in part.

"We cannot as leaders of young women allow Mark Emmert and his team to use us and our student-athletes at their convenience. Every team here in San Antonio has earned and deserves as minimum the same level of respect as the men. All the teams here dealt with the same issues as the men's teams this season, yet their 'reward' is different."

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How will NCAA fix this?

The statement did not address the reasoning for the discrepancy. The NCAA told Yahoo Sports on Thursday that organizers didn't initially believe that there would be space for a dedicated weight room.

Friday's statement also failed to address how the NCAA plans to rectify the matter. According to an NCAA news release on the issue, Holzman and her staff will "readjust available square footage within the unique footprint of the controlled environment in San Antonio to provide more training opportunities for teams while maintaining health and safety protocols."

Oregon forward Sedona Prince elevated the issue Thursday with a video and commentary on the weight rooms. She called into questions the NCAA's claim that space is an issue in San Antonio with video footage of a large empty room next to the lone set of dumbbells.

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Before the NCAA statement on Friday, president Mark Emmert called the disparities "deeply disappointing" and "inexcusable" after The NCAA's committee on women's athletics called for an independent investigation.

“I want to be really clear,’’ Emmert told The New York Times, The Athletic and USA Today. “This is not something that should have happened, and should we ever conduct a tournament like this again, will ever happen again.’’

Unequal COVID-19 testing between men and women?

Players and coaches also called out apparent discrepancies in food quality, gift bags and even COVID-19 testing between the two sites. Prince posted social media video critical of the pre-packaged meals for student-athletes in San Antonio while images surfaced of women's gift bags that appeared to be lighter than those given to men.

Holzman said that while the gift bags contained different items, the dollar value of the bags was the same. She also said the NCAA would work with the hotels in San Antonio to address food issues.

Connecticut women's coach Geno Auriemma told reporters on a video conference Thursday that men's teams are receiving daily PCR COVID-19 testing while women's teams are being administered daily antigen tests.PCR tests are more sensitive and can be more accurate than antigen tests, which tend to be more accurate.

The NCAA has not yet addressed Auriemma's claim.

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