The Real Madness of the NCAA Tournament: Major Discrepancies in Men’s and Women’s Workout Facilities
Updated: Apr 14
By: Domenica Tomasetti
The long awaited return of the March Madness basketball tournaments commenced this weekend after COVID-19 forced their cancellation last year. Following in the footsteps of the NBA and the WNBA, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) organized bubbles for the men’s and women’s tournaments, in Indianapolis and San Antonio, respectively. All 67 games of each tournament will be played within these bubbles.
The excitement surrounding the tournaments began to change after the Sports Performance Coach for No. 1 women’s seed, Stanford, released photos on social media that brought to light the discrepancies between the men’s and the women’s facilities. The men’s lifting facility appears to have more equipment than most gyms that require membership, while the women were directed to a single rack of weights under 30 pounds, some yoga mats, and a singular stationary bike. The NCAA quickly responded with a statement that this was not an issue of money, but an issue of space. The Vice President stated that the amenities would be corrected by the Sweet 16 when there are fewer teams. Sedona Prince, a women’s basketball player from Oregon, subsequently came forward on social media to share the large amount of available space for a workout area, discrediting the NCAA’s excuses.
WNBA players, such as Delaware County native Tasha Cloud, acknowledged the issue and called for Title IX regulation. Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 requires equal access to resources for men and women and prevents discrimination based on sex. Cloud was joined by other athletes and fans in questioning the lack of enforcement of gender equity under this federal law. While gender equity is important, Title IX does not apply to the NCAA organization itself.
In NCAA v. Smith, the Supreme Court held that the NCAA cannot be brought to suit under Title IX because it is not federally funded. The NCAA benefits financially from federally funded schools through events like the March Madness Tournaments, which bring in a profit of over $800 million in television deals for the association each year. The court found the connection to federal funding too indirect for the NCAA to be considered a federally funded organization. Because the March Madness tournaments are held by the NCAA, there is no obligation under enforceable regulation to adhere to gender equity within the bubbles. While the law may not be on the side of the female athletes in acknowledging the NCAA’s faults, the media has taken over.
Sedona Prince, along with other NCAA players and coaches, shared additional posts of discrepancies ranging from the meals to the swag bags. These young female athletes know that the inequality doesn’t stop in college. They see the problems faced by professionals, such as the members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, who are in the midst of a battle for equal pay. Following in their footsteps, these college athletes took their fight for equal treatment to social media through Twitter, Instagram, and Tik Tok. These posts quickly caught the attention of NBA household name Steph Curry, WNBA players Sabrina Ionescu and Sue Bird, and tennis star Venus Williams. None of these athletes held back on showing their disapproval, and they urged the NCAA to correct their choices.
ESPN basketball analyst, Jay Bilas, took to Instagram commenting, “Don’t listen to what the NCAA says. Watch what the NCAA does”. The NCAA may preach equality, but when they had full control of all decisions for the tournament due to the effects of the pandemic, they acted in opposition to their supposed support for gender equity.  The NCAA made an official statement after holding a meeting with the coaches of all 64 teams on Thursday. This statement included an apology for their unfair treatment of the female athletes and announced that they were working to amend the weight room facilities and the meal plans that “fell short”. 
The Drexel Women’s Basketball Team, who are in San Antonio, shed more light on the current mindset of the players. Senior guard, Hannah Nihill, spoke about how grateful the players are for social media for giving people the confidence to share the constant struggle and fight for women in sports. She and teammate, Maura Hendrixson, said as of Saturday, the only change they have seen thus far is the new availability of water during practice. Further, in light of the issues presented by COVID-19, many of the players have been receiving false positive results from the rapid antigen tests they have been provided, in contrast to the PCR tests the men are receiving. Drexel has had three false positives, causing problems for their team. University of Connecticut coach, Geno Auriemma, also spoke about testing being his biggest concern for his team going forward, regardless of the NCAA’s insistence that it was advised that both tests are equally as effective in detecting the virus.
Women’s sports have made substantial strides in gaining equality and the respect of society, but there is still a long way to go. Chris Dailey, the Associate Head Coach for UConn, acknowledged that although the situation is unfortunate, there is hope for improvement in the future now that the NCAA has more eyes on it. The media forced an admission of fault from the NCAA for their actions and demanded correction. While respect and treatment of female athletes is far from equal to that of male athletes, the backlash recorded in the media over this disparate treatment is a promising sign for the future of athletics and gender equity.
Thoughts from Former NCAA Women Athletes at Villanova Law
“The unequal treatment of women’s sports isn’t new. However, this time was blatantly disrespectful and reflects how much less the NCAA values its female athletes. As a former D1 track athlete, it is extremely disheartening to watch. As a former coach it hurts even more because I’ve watched my athletes overcome so much to compete. I cannot imagine them working that hard to get to the championships only for the NCAA not to provide weights. Some athletes need those weights just to continue their rehab. I was personally offended by the 30-pound dumbbells being the highest weight given to these amazing athletes. Lifting was one of the best parts of my track career and it’s essential to be successful.
"My alma mater has been in the news recently since Clemson female athletes are threatening a Title IX law suit if more financial aid is not provided. This is just another example of women having to fight to get the bare minimum.”
–TAYLOR WILLIAMS, 2L, former NCAA track athlete and coach
“I think the difference in the men’s bubble weight room v. the women’s bubble weight room is bringing to light the disappointing fact that sexism is still prevalent in athletics. I’m glad those photos are prompting people to talk about the issue and take it seriously. Being an athlete taught me how strong I am and allowed me to work with so many fearless and resilient women. But when I receive comments that I’m “fast but only for a girl,” it’s frustrating when I know the hard work I put in to get myself to that point.”
—AMANDA HARDING, 2L, former NCAA track athlete
“I had an amazing college athletics experience playing ice hockey at the D1 level. We were fortunate to have our own playing facility, a rarity for women’s teams, but it’s a hand-me-down from the men. We shared every other amenity with the rest of the athletic department while men’s hockey had their own playing facility, gym, athletic training room, shooting and training aids, and professional level video room. Their locker room, changing room, and team lounge were much larger than any other team on campus. Their players will, and alumni have competed in the NHL, but our women’s players are just as successful. Our women are Olympic champions. Women have proven they can succeed despite lacks in support and funding however, we would like to prove we can be more successful with this support and funding.
"Some programs are more equitable than others. After graduation I coached at the D3 level and it was readily apparent that it would be a more equitable experience. Practice times were alternated to keep it equitable. If the men’s team ordered new uniforms or equipment, the women’s team ordered too. Hopefully we can see more of this equity everywhere.”
—SAMANTHA PULLEY, 2L, former NCAA ice hockey athlete and coach
 McCollough, B. (2021, March 18). Oregon’s Sedona Prince Highlights the Gender Inequality on Display in NCAA Weight Rooms. Retrieved March 19, 2021, from https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2021-03-18/difference-ncaa-tournament-womens-weight-room-march-madness
 Townes, C. (2021, March 19). Where Is Title IX In The NCAA Weight Rooms? Retrieved March 19, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/ceceliatownes/2021/03/19/where-is-title-ix-in-the-ncaa-weight-rooms/?sh=6f134b7e7007
 Connley, C. (2021, March 19). Steph Curry, A’ja Wilson and Other Athletes Call Out NCAA for Unequal Treatment of Men and Women Basketball Players. Retrieved March 19, 2021, from https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/19/steph-curry-other-athletes-call-out-ncaas-treatment-of-women-players.html
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 Higgins, L. (2021, March 19). Women’s March Madness Is Growing in Popularity—and Undervalued. Retrieved March 20, 2021 from https://www.wsj.com/articles/march-madness-womens-college-basketball-ncaa-tournament-11616155596
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 Hayes, G. (2020, May 1). Judge Sides with U.S. Soccer in USWNT's Equal Pay Lawsuit. Retrieved March 20, 2021 from https://www.espn.com/espnw/sports/story/_/id/29125363/judge-sides-us-soccer-uswnt-equal-pay-lawsuit
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 Voepel, M. (2021, March 19). NCAA's Dan Gavitt Apologizes to Women's Basketball Teams for Disparity in NCAA Weight-training Facilities. Retrieved March 19, 2021, from https://www.espn.com/womens-college-basketball/story/_/id/31095607/ncaa-dan-gavitt-apologizes-women-basketball-teams-disparity-ncaa-weight-training-facilities
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