NCAA Announces Independent Equity Review amid Women's Basketball Disparities

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMarch 25, 2021

FILE - In this March 18, 2015, file photo, the NCAA logo is displayed at center court as work continues at The Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, for the NCAA college basketball tournament. The NCAA is opening a door for states with legalized sports gambling to host NCAA championship events. The governing body for college sports on Thursday, May 17, 2018, announced a
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

The NCAA has announced an independent equity review for all championship sports amid criticism stemming from the disparities in amenities provided to teams in the NCAA women's basketball tournament compared to the men's tournament.

NCAA president Mark Emmert issued a statement explaining the review process: 

"The NCAA will continue to aggressively address material and impactful differences between the Division I Men's and Women's Basketball Championships. While many of the operational issues identified have been resolved, we must continue to make sure we are doing all we can to support gender equity in sports. As part of this effort, we are evaluating the current and previous resource allocation to each championship, so we have a clear understanding of costs, spend and revenue.

"Furthermore, we are examining all championships in all three Divisions to identify any other gaps that need to be addressed, both qualitatively and quantitively, to achieve gender equity. To assist the NCAA in this effort, we are retaining the law firm of Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP ('Kaplan Hecker'), which has significant experience in Title IX and gender equity issues, to evaluate our practices and policies and provide recommendations on steps we can take to get better."

The organization came under heavy scrutiny after the women's basketball teams didn't receive the same amenities as their male counterparts. Multiple people posted photos and videos online of what the women's amenities looked like, including Stanford sports performance coach Ali Kershner and Oregon forward Sedona Prince:

Sedona Prince @sedonaprince_

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

Per Alex Azzi of NBC Sports, the disparities extended beyond training facilities, including food quality and COVID-19 testing.

NCAA leaders did apologize for the disparities, and on March 20 the organization had a more extensive weight room installed in San Antonio for the women's teams to use. 

Holly Rowe @sportsiren

More details and context coming up on ⁦@CollegeGameDay⁩ but the response has been fast for the Women’s NCAA Tournament weight room. Teams are scheduled for lifts this am. https://t.co/vFYnFGpzcP

Stanford women's head coach Tara VanDerveer called the NCAA's actions "evidence of blatant sexism" in a statement released from the school. South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said that Emmert and his team "chose to create" these issues because "they did not think or do not think that women's players 'deserve' the same amenities of the men." Former Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw noted the disparities at the tournaments are part of a larger issue of inequity in the NCAA.

Emmert's statement also said the law firm will have "direct access to the Board of Governors" to discuss any potential issues that may arise over the course of the investigation. 

The NCAA is hoping to have a preliminary assessment done "in late April, with a final report this summer after all of our championships are completed."