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NCAA's Mark Emmert Addresses Difference Between Men's, Women's COVID-19 Testing

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 11, 2020, file photo, NCAA President Mark Emmert testifies during a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing on intercollegiate athlete compensation on Capitol Hill in Washington. NCAA President Mark Emmert hopes lessons learned through navigating the pandemic will lead college sports leaders to be more open-minded to future reforms and to prioritize opportunities for athletes when it comes time to cut costs. In a 25-minute phone interview Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020 with The Associated Press, Emmert said the NCAA and its members schools have shown an uncommon ability to be nimble and responsive in addressing issues of eligibility, scheduling, recruiting, transfers, and conducting championship events.. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
Susan Walsh/Associated Press

UConn women's basketball head coach Geno Auriemma told reporters this week that his players receive daily antigen tests for COVID-19 while the men's basketball team is given a daily PCR test, considered the better and more reliable test, per Jordan Mendoza of USA Today

On Friday, NCAA commissioner Mark Emmert responded to the difference in the tests and the criticism that has followed the organizing body's decision to give men's and women's basketball players different tests. 

"I'm not a medical expert so not going to get into a debate about PCR and antigen," he told reporters, per Mendoza. "All the health experts said the protocol that we're using in all of our venues and all of our championships has no [difference] at all in terms of our ability to mitigate risk,"

Antigen tests have a "higher chance of missing an active infection," per the FDA, while Memorial Healthcare described the PCR test as the "gold standard" for testing since it "actually detects RNA (or genetic material) that is specific to the virus and can detect the virus within days of infection, even those who have no symptoms," per Mendoza.

The news that the men and women are receiving different tests was met with immediate backlash:

Rachel Axon @RachelAxon

Swag bags, weight rooms, food and now this? At this point fair to wonder if the women in the NCAA Tournament bubble are getting *anything* equal to the men. https://t.co/IrMEQxsgDu

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Kelsey Riggs @kelseyriggs

Make whatever excuses you want about weight rooms, food, or swag bags whatever... Now try to justify why the testing protocols that are in place for PLAYER HEALTH AND SAFETY are not the same. 😑😑😑 https://t.co/l1pMxchhg9

Jay Bilas @JayBilas

Seriously? What are the respective budgets? That question needs to be asked, and the NCAA needs to answer it. https://t.co/Qkcfp0ZyZA

Natalie Weiner @natalieweiner

Dawn Staley making sure to draw out that she is mostly frustrated that she has to talk about inequality instead of basketball; "It's the decision makers...I don't blame Lynn (Holzman, NCAA vp of women's basketball)"

Natalie Weiner @natalieweiner

"There's a miscommunication at the highest level of the NCAA - either a miscommunication, or no communication, or they just don't care." - Dawn Staley

It comes in the same week that Stanford sports performance coach Ali Kershner and Oregon forward Sedona Prince revealed that the men were given access to a large weight room during their tournament, while the women were provided with only a small rack of dumbells:

Sedona Prince @sedonaprince_

Let me put it on Twitter too cause this needs the attention https://t.co/t0DWKL2YHR

A'ja Wilson @_ajawilson22

That ncaa bubble weight room situation is beyond disrespectful 😐

There have also been discrepancies in the food served to the men compared to the women and the swag bags given out by the NCAA. 

NCAA vice president Lynn Holzman released a statement saying the organizing body wants "to be responsive to the needs of our participating teams, and we are actively working to enhance existing resources at practice courts, including additional weight training equipment."

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