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'A shame for our game': Georgia Tech coach Nell Fortner tees off on NCAA's inequities

John Harris
American-Statesman Correspondent
Georgia Tech coach Nell Fortner calls out to the team during the Yellow Jackets' win over West Virginia in the second round of the NCAA women's tournament at the UTSA Convocation Center in San Antonio Tuesday. Fortner used part of her post-game press conference to talk about the NCAA's treatment of the men's and women's basketball tournaments.

SAN ANTONIO — Hours before her team took the court, Georgia Tech coach Nell Fortner teed off on the NCAA for glaring "disparities" in the governing body of college basketball's treatment of the men's and women's basketball tournaments.

"Thank you for using the three biggest weeks of your organization's year to expose exactly how you feel about women's basketball - an afterthought," Fortner said on her Twitter page. "Thank you for showing off the disparities between the men's and women's tournament that are on full display in San Antonio. ... These disparities are just a snapshot of larger, more pervasive issues when it comes to women's sports and the NCAA. Shipping in a few racks of weights, after the fact, is not an answer. It's a band-aid and an afterthought."

Following No. 5-seed Georgia Tech's 73-56 victory over No. 4-seed West Virginia Tuesday at the UTSA Convocation Center that sent the Yellow Jackets (17-8) to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2012, Fortner reiterated what she said earlier about the NCAA.

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"We're on a stage. We have a platform right now to talk about some things. The inequities have been around for a long time," Fortner said. "Just about every coach here has had an opinion on it. I put out a statement; I just put out what I felt. That's how I feel, so I put it out there.

"I think that the inequities are something that need to be looked at. I feel like we're a valuable asset to be able to run a little bit stronger championship.

"Let me give you an example. We played on a floor tonight that doesn't even look like an NCAA Tournament floor. I think that's a shame for our game. 

"We've got to talk about things. We've got to bring things up and get them addressed. You can't shy away from them."

Fortner, a former University of Texas basketball standout and a member of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, said on her Twitter account: "While our TV contract isn't in the billions, it is in a package worth half a billion. We do command a massive and loyal TV audience that post ratings on par with some of the largest sporting events in our country, We are a valuable asset that has consistently earned the right to be marketed, promoted and conducted as a great championship rather than an afterthought. ... For too long, women's basketball has accepted an attitude and treatment from the NCAA that has been substandard in its championships. It's time for this to stop."

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After unloading on the NCAA earlier in the day, Fortner watched her Yellow Jackets unload on West Virginia (22-7).

Erasing a nine-point deficit in the first quarter, Georgia Teach grabbed a 36-32 halftime lead as first-team All-ACC junior Lotta-Maj Lahtinen tallied 15 of her game-high 22 points.

It was a bounce back game for Lahtinen, who leads the Yellow Jackets in scoring, assists and steals but struggled from the field against Stephen F. Austin in the first round.

After missing all seven of her three-point attempts two days earlier, Lahtinen drilled four three-pointers among her nine field goals.

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"Shooters shoot, man," Lahtinen said. "That's my game. I just have to be confident. I didn't hit any in the first game. This time they went in. You just have to trust every time you step on the court."

"Normally when she has a night like that she always bounces back strong," Fortner said. "Her shot looked really good. We needed that."

Georgia Tech advances to face No. 1-seed South Carolina (24-4) Saturday.