'Dumbest bet you could make:' NCAA under fire again for women's sports inequities

·3 min read
The Central Florida women's volleyball team practices before the NCAA volleyball tournament on Tuesday. The NCAA is being criticized for subpar conditions at the Omaha, Neb., bubble. (Chris Machian/Omaha World-Herald via AP - image credit)
The Central Florida women's volleyball team practices before the NCAA volleyball tournament on Tuesday. The NCAA is being criticized for subpar conditions at the Omaha, Neb., bubble. (Chris Machian/Omaha World-Herald via AP - image credit)

Just one month after coming under fire for its mistreatment of women, the NCAA is once again taking heat for the same issue.

With the national women's volleyball championship tournament set to be begin Wednesday, players and coaches are speaking out about subpar conditions in the Omaha, Neb., bubble.

Among their issues are locker rooms that look more like tents, potentially dangerous flooring and a lack of broadcast coverage.

In March, NCAA women's basketball players revealed similar inequities compared to the men's tournament, most notably an underwhelming weight room.

"Anybody who put money on the NCAA changing in a week lost a lot of money and it was the dumbest bet you could ever make," CBC Sports contributor Meghan McPeak said on the latest episode of Bring It In.

"I was not shocked at the NCAA women's tournament and what they had. That's just the NCAA doing what they do best: not caring about anything but the men's side of sports. Not caring about their athletes, period."

Bring It In, CBC Sports' video podcast series, returned Tuesday with its first episode of Season 2, in which host Morgan Campbell discussed with McPeak and fellow contributor Dave Zirin the NCAA double-standards, the potential CFL-XFL partnership and more.

WATCH | Bring It In crew unsurprised about lacking women's volleyball setup:

Upon arrival in Omaha, multiple coaches pointed out that the practice courts at the convention centre where the tournament will take place were just "sport court layered over cement flooring," according to Big Ten Network reporter Emily Ehman.

Those conditions increase injury probability — especially for a sport that requires so much jumping.

The locker-room tents and lack of commentary on broadcast streams, originally for the first two rounds of the tournament, also provided cause for concern.

The NCAA responded by saying it inserted felt between the cement and sport courts to ease impact, while adding ESPN commentary for all rounds — though not before claiming it had "no requirement" to include such.

"They didn't apologize because they felt bad, they didn't apologize because they were wrong, they didn't apologize because they had a misstep. They apologized because they got caught — publicly," McPeak said.

Campbell pointed out that the NCAA says it can't pay high-revenue sport athletes such as men's basketball and football players because those funds must be distributed to non-profitable sports.

The lack of investment in women's volleyball, then, is curious.

"Volleyball is a big business in [the U.S.]. Volleyball is huge. Volleyball is the second most popular sport in Brazil, which is only one of the biggest countries on earth. There is money to be made from women's volleyball, but they can't see it for the very reason they can't see that the weight room is absolutely disgusting and insulting compared to the men's," Zirin said.

Commissioner Mark Emmert should be held accountable for the NCAA's continued ignorance of women's sports, the panel agreed.

"He is hurting the NCAA's ability to make money, because women's basketball is on the precipice of being big business, but it can't be big business if its wings are clipped, and that's exactly what Mark Emmert is doing," Zirin said.