TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Athletes, public figures, and fans are calling out the NCAA after photos and video taken at college basketball’s biggest tournament, March Madness, showed how differently women’s and men’s teams are treated.
Ali Kershner, a sports performance coach for the Stanford women’s team was the first to raise concerns on Thursday when she posted a side-by-side comparison of the weight room facilities offered to the men’s teams in NCAA tournament bubble in Indianapolis compared to the weight room for the women at their bubble in San Antonio.
While the men’s facility was equipped with at least a dozen benches and racks in a sprawling room, Kershner’s photo of the women’s facility showed just a single rack of hand-held weights.
"It is shocking, we all saw it and there's a disparity there," said Florida State Interim Head Coach Brooke Wyckoff. "I'm disappointed in the sense of... the intention. I don't think there were bad intentions behind it. There are going to be things that fall through the cracks. There's going to be mistakes made. I feel for our players because when they see that image it's tough. When we see that image as women, you immediately draw the conclusion that this isn't fair."
Wyckoff said it's a good thing the disparity was brought to attention, but there are a lot of good things happening at the NCAA tournament.
"We're here, we're having one and we're happy to be here. But at the same time, it gives us a great opportunity to just point out this is still a thing guys. This kind of stuff still goes on. Let's talk about it. I don't want to demonize NCAA. They're doing a lot of really good stuff. They're putting on a great tournament, but these things exist."
Later on Thursday, Lynn Holzman, the NCAA’s VP of women’s basketball, released a statement, saying that space has been limited due to the “controlled environment” of the bubble format, and that the workout areas would be expanded as the tournament progressed.
“The original plan was to expand the workout area once additional space was available later in the tournament,” Holzman said. “However, we want to be responsive to the needs of our participating teams.”
The NCAA held a conference call for coaches and administrators to hear and answer concerns with Lynn Holzman Thursday night.
"The NCAA did a good job last night of getting coaching together and hearing our concerns and trying to fix it moving forward," said Wyckoff. "It's a little bit late, but they're going to do what they can."
"Like Coach Brooke said, we're all grateful to be here, but it's saddening in a sense that we feel like we're making steps forward in equality and it seems like a little of a step backward," said FSU redshirt junior Savannah Wilkinson. "But the NCAA has been great at responding and making sure that they're getting on top of it as soon as they can to try and correct and make sure that we feel like we're getting the acknowledgment that we should get because we are extremely good athletes."
Holzman said there will be a follow-up conference call with coaches and they have adjusted numerous things on the fly.
Florida State takes on eight seed Oregon State in the first round in the "Hemisfair" region. Their game is set for 7:30 p.m. on Sunday in San Antonio, Texas.