Over the past several days, the NCAA has been receiving backlash for the way the women’s tournament environment has been handled in comparison to the men. Photos and videos have been circulating on social media displaying the women’s inadequate amenities, including their original “weight” room, food, gear, and even different COVID-19 tests.
In response to the weight room, an NCAA rep said that there was simply not enough space to provide more equipment. As it was shown on social media, the equipment was in a vastly empty conference center. The disparities between women and men within sports has not budged, leaving a level of inequality that has yet to be closed.
This has certainly hurt Title IX protections, as it fights for the right to equal opportunity under an educational institution or activity receiving federal financial assistance. It displays that there is still a lot of work to be done. This shortcoming did not go unnoticed by any of the teams, including the Marist women’s basketball team, as they will appear in the tournament for the first time since 2014 on Monday night.
“Obviously it’s shocking because you know, we’ve seen this on the media,” said Marist sophomore guard Trinasia Kennedy. “And when we see it, it’s really disappointing, especially everything that we’ve been going through in the last couple years. We were hoping that we get here, we get to have fun, we get to play basketball, we’re in Texas, and it’s tournament time. But this kind of put a dent in it.”
Marist’s 11 NCAA tournament appearances under head coach Brian Giorgis was able to bring some perspective of how past NCAA tournaments have operated. He noted his good relationship with NCCA vice president Lynn Holzmann and that the weight room problem was an oversight, explaining that in the past few years the tournament has not taken place at neutral sites. Rather the tournaments have been at the higher-seeded teams’ home courts where visiting squads could utilize their gym. This tournament is similar to “the old school days” when Marist went to the Sweet Sixteen in 2007 where everything mostly took place on a neutral site.
However, he and senior forward Willow Duffell added that the weight room and food were certainly a disappointment, as the team needs that to fuel themselves for the high-level competition to come. Giorgis even added that he looks forward to and celebrates when the team gets Chick-fil-A.
“From what I’ve seen with the guys and what we’ve had here, it’s pretty sad,” said Giorgis.
The weight room has since been improved and equipment was donated by several companies, such as Tonal Systems, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Orangetheory Fitness. With the help from social media, we are reminded that gender issues still remain and are encouraged to take urgent steps towards a better future for women. Kennedy noted that, “The best thing we can do about it is just encourage the NCAA to take better steps towards it.”
Despite the unfortunate start of the tournament prior to tipoff for Marist, the women are focusing on their game and how to be successful in this tournament. Forget the gear, weight room, and food, the women are here to compete with or without the appropriate accommodations.
“We’re so grateful to be here and to be in this position and to actually be able to play our sport,” said Duffell, agreeing with what a player from Gonzaga had said on social media. “She said, ‘The guys can have their swag bags or whatever. We are not here to get gear, we’re here to win basketball games…’ So as for the gear and things like that, I don’t care too much about it because it doesn’t affect how I play.”
As the competition begins, the Marist women and the rest of the world should still keep in mind the issues that need to be addressed and should remain at the forefront of the country’s concerns. By doing so, we can avoid issues like these and more in the future.
The women are scheduled to play Monday, March 22 against second-seeded Louisville in the first round of the tournament. Not only will the women be representing Marist but also women in sports, paving the path for more in the future.
“There’s a ton of work to be done, you know, as far as we’re concerned, we’re here to play basketball and to try to win some games,” said Giorgis. “So that’s what we’ve been focused on, And you know, hopefully, we can come through.”
Edited by Mackenzie Meaney & Dave Connelly