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Golden: NCAA really dropped the ball with women's facilities fiasco

NCAA rectified the situation but not in great time

Cedric Golden
Austin American-Statesman
  • Texas coach Vic Schaefer: "I can't believe we're still having this conversation in 2021."
  • The NCAA women's national champion will not receive a payout but a men's team that wins a single game will get $2 million.

As a lover of basketball, it’s great to see that young girls in this country are growing up knowing they can play in college and chase the dream of playing professionally, unlike 30 to 40 years ago when they were forced to go overseas to play or have to quit playing after college.

Title IX is one of the greatest things to ever happen to American sports because it provided opportunities for everyone to participate. But we've been reminded over the last couple of weeks that much work remains to ensure equal treatment at the sport’s highest levels.

The images that illustrated the scarcity of workout equipment provided by the NCAA for the women’s tournament being held in San Antonio and San Marcos was an abomination, as well as the fact that it took days before NCAA President Mark Emmert sprang to action to rectify the situation.

NCAA women's tournament:Emmert says women's workout area 'never intended to be weight rooms'

Of course there was a carefully scripted statement.

“We want the student-athletes to have a great experience and feel appreciated as they are for what they’ve done,” Emmert told USA Today. “They’ve gone through an incredible grind to get to these tournaments. So anything that detracts from that is so disappointing."

Texas head coach Vic Schaefer, seen with guard Audrey Warren after playing Baylor earlier this month, was disappointed in how the NCAA did not provide a suitable amount of workout equipment for the women's tournament. “It’s a shame that we’re having this conversation in 2021,” he said.

If only we could take him at his word. Men's teams had full state-of-the-art workout equipment in place days before they arrived in Indiana. It just shouldn’t have been too much to ask for the ladies to be afforded the same accommodations.

Add to that the excuses coming out of the Alamo City just didn’t hold water. It’s not always what you say, but what you do, and the NCAA was late to the party, a fact that didn’t go unnoticed from some of the biggest names in the sport, including Texas coach Vic Schaefer.

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“I think what was most disheartening and disappointing was just the lack of accountability and just trying to throw it to this person and that person instead of, ‘You know what? I'm the the head of this deal and I need to be accountable,’” Schaefer told me recently. “I think that’s the disappointment in all of it.”

The women are just asking for the same manner of treatment as their male counterparts. I’ve read several stories about the men’s teams getting buffet spreads while the women are getting prepackaged meals.

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It’s simply a bad look for a multibillion dollar corporation machine like the NCAA that hides behind the sham of being a nonprofit business.

I understand the money aspect and the idea that the cash cow will always be placed in a greener pasture, but why not spend some of those greenbacks brought in from the $20 billion TV deal to continue and grow the women’s game? That is, if you’re really believing the PR statements you’re putting out about equity, fair treatment and love of your student-athletes.

ESPN paid $500 million for the right to televise  the women’s tournament, but the NCAA awards zero dollars to any schools that win a game, not even the national championship. Contrast that with the $2 million that a men’s team's school gets for winning one game.

After complaints of inequity, a new weight room was created at the women’s NCAA Tournament in San Antonio.

I understand that the men bring in millions more in viewership, but the NCAA can't break off a cent to Baylor or UConn for representing the organization with grace and class before sellout crowds at the Women's Final Four?

This feels much more like a huge diss than a mere oversight by people who should have been at the ready weeks ago.

This tournament is supposed to be the ultimate showcase for NCAA women’s athletics and that doesn’t mean only when the bright lights are on but in the exercise room, at the training table and at team meals.

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“It’s a shame that we’re having this conversation in 2021,” Schaefer said. "I know my kids deserve equally what our counterparts get.”

“They warrant the very best," he said. "That’s why I’m at Texas. I feel like at Texas, that's who we are. Women’s athletics is important at Texas. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be there.”

It will get better one day, but this one instance reveals just how much work remains to be done. When the whole world is watching your biggest athletic showcase, Mr. Emmert, something like this just shouldn’t happen.

The NCAA has to be better than this.

Texas football coach Steve Sarkisian has just started his first spring football season on campus and will have to navigate how to best establish his culture and coaching philosophy.

Steve Sarkisian's new culture

Steve Sarkisian never knew that being a sociology major would come in so handy with his current vocation.

The study of people and cultures mixed in with tackle dummies, shoulder pads and jock straps? Yes, it always ties in together and Sarkisian has a unique job on his hands after taking over for Tom Herman.

Sark doesn’t have to build this program from the ground up because no player on his  roster has had a losing college season or even lost a bowl game, for that matter. The Horns took the field for spring football this week, and in between all the player evaluations, weight and height measurements and drills, he has to figure out how hard to push, when to talk and when to listen.

Golden: At Texas, 'The Eyes' will still have it under Steve Sarkisian

“As I’ve said early on, this would be a clean slate and I didn't want to keep digging into the guys about how things were before, good bad or differently,” Sarkisian said on a Zoom call Monday. “I wanted to give them a chance to accept and digest what we were about and put their best foot forward with our new coaches, our new strength and conditioning staff, with me personally, and not keep drudging up maybe how it was before.”

His leaders will be extremely important in this transition: from DeMarvion Overshown to Derek Kerstetter to Cade Brewer to Keondre Coburn and the like. They have been used to a different style of coach in Herman and the installing of a new overall way of doing business will require some time to adjust.

Sarkisian gets that.