NCAA president Mark Emmert reiterated Wednesday that the association “dropped the ball” with regard to amenities for the women’s tournament bubble in San Antonio and pledged to use the experience as an inflection point to reach greater gender equity across all sports and championships in the future.
“How do we make up for those shortcomings from this day going forward and create the kind of gender equity we all talk about to make sure it’s a reality and not just language?” Emmert said during a 30-minute news conference leading into the women’s Final Four. “And we have to do that. I have to do that. We can't let down these amazing athletes ever again.”
Over the two weeks, conversation about inequities between the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in quality of weight room and food has ballooned into a wider look at how the NCAA manages and markets its marquee product on the women’s side.
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A detailed view of the 2021 NCAA Women's Final Four logo at the Alamodome. (Photo: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports)
The NCAA has hired an outside law firm, Kaplan Hecker & Fink, to conduct an independent review of gender equity in all of its championships.
“While the gender equity review we need to do has to begin and focus on women’s basketball, it’s not going to be only about women’s basketball,” Emmert said. “Women’s basketball, like men's basketball, those are the two marquee sports for the NCAA championships, and if you don’t get those right, you’re not going to get anything right and my commitment to that is unequivocal. It has to be gender equity across the board.”
One of the issues that has come to the forefront in discussing differences between the men's and women’s tournament is why certain branding, including the March Madness logo, has been used only for the men’s tournament. Attention has also been raised on why the men’s championship weekend is branded as the Final Four while the women’s is referred to as the Women’s Final Four in its official logo. Emmert said those discussions have already started to take place internally and that there was no barrier to the women’s tournament using whatever marks and logos it wants.
“If the women’s basketball committee wants it used there’s no reason they can’t use it,” Emmert said. “Similarly, Final Four is used by both, and if one wants to use the logo with a gender identifier is up to the committee, and they can do whatever they want to do with those things. The details of how and why those decisions were made, we'll get to through our review. i’m committed to making sure we use the marks as effectively as we can in promoting the NCAA.”
Emmert said he continues to be apologetic and to take personal responsibility for shortcomings at the women’s event.
“Obviously I wish that there had been both from me and everybody greater attention to exactly what was going on on both platforms, so that we didn’t have these issues, whether it was the weight room issue or the food differentials,” he said. "Those things just shouldn’t happen and we could have and should’ve avoided the and we didn’t. That’s a miss on my part, on everybody’s part. We were really focused on getting through this during a pandemic and weren’t focused on the kind of equity we needed to be. The thing I’m most regretful for is we didn’t catch it up front.”
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