Mark Emmert Says NCAA 'Dropped the Ball' in Supporting Women's Athletics

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 31, 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

NCAA President Mark Emmert admitted the organization has not supported women's athletics as well as it should, with the men's and women's basketball tournaments especially standing out over the past month.

"When you lay the men's and women's championships side by side, as has been made clear over the past weeks, it is pretty self-evident that we dropped the ball in supporting our women's athletes, and we can't do that," Emmert told reporters Wednesday, per Heather Dinich of ESPN. "That's a failure that should not exist."

There were notable disparities between the two tournaments this year despite both taking place inside singular locations—the men's event in Indiana and the women's event in San Antonio, Texas. This includes weight-training facilities, meal preparations and gifts given out to each player.

Other issues include the difference in presentation of the tournaments, with the women's NCAA tournament and Final Four usually specified as such when there is no qualifier in front of the men's events.

Emmert said this year's tournament can be used "as a pivot point, an inflection point to say: What do we need to do better?"

"How do we make up for those shortcomings from this day going on and create the kind of gender equity that we all talk about ... to make sure it's a reality, not just language?" he added.

The 2021 women's basketball tournament has generated a lot of excitement with the Elite Eight battle between UConn and Baylor especially turning heads:

Zoomph @Zoomph

We're talkin' #ncaaW & so was everyone else last night 🗣️ There were over 9,600 posts about the Elite Eight matchup between @UConnWBB & @BaylorWBB during the game alone... The engagements doubled those of the men's @marchmadness games happening last night 👀 https://t.co/377OANCrUm

According to Richard Deitsch of The Athletic, UConn's Sweet 16 win over Iowa drew 1.559 million viewers on ABC.

The increased ratings and highly publicized missteps by the NCAA could lead to greater investment by the governing body going forward.