NCAA Provides Full Weight Room for Women's Tournament After Backlash

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The NCAA women's basketball tournament in San Antonio will now have a full weight room of equipment for its players, according to ESPN's Holly Rowe.

The news comes after South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley wrote a statement to the NCAA condemning the unequal workout accommodations at the women's basketball tournament compared to those for the men's teams. 

Staley said the issue goes beyond inadequate training equipment and swag bags for teams participating in the tournament. Her comments came in response to a NCAA representative saying that it did not think there would be enough space for full weight rooms at the women's tournament because of the hosting convention center was too small.

South Dakota women's basketball, a No. 9 seed in this year's tournament, posted a video on Twitter of its players doing workouts with bands on Friday due to not having an adequate weight room to use before facing No. 8 Syracuse Sunday.

Former Notre Dame women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw said Saturday in a statement that the "inequities in the facilities" is not what bothers her.

"What bothers me is that no one on the NCAA's leadership team even noticed," McGraw said. "While corporations across the country are scrambling to hire women and set up diversity & inclusion teams, the NCAA had an opportunity to highlight how sport can be a place where we don't just talk about equality we put it on display."

For McGraw, it is the disparity between the men's and women's tournaments and "fighting that battle for years" that has become tiring.

"Tired of having to preface everything we do with the word 'Women's' which would be fine if the men had to do the same, but they don't and when they don't it makes us look like the JV tournament to their event," McGraw said.

"We have taken the crumbs from the table we don't even have a seat at and we didn't complain. We have accepted our fate way too long. This generation of women expects more and we won't stop until we get it."

Beyond unequal accommodations, Connecticut women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma—who remains in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19—told reporters Friday that his players get different COVID-19 tests than the men's team.

According USA TODAY Sports, the women's teams receive daily antigen tests while the men's team gets a daily PCR test. Antigen tests are given to have a quicker turnaround for results but have a higher chance in missing an active infection, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

PCR tests detect genetic material of the virus and can detect the virus within days of infection, even if the person is asymptomatic. PCR tests have a longer turnaround but can be delivered in 24 hours. 

"I’m not a medical expert so not going to get into a debate about PCR and antigen," NCAA president Mark Emmert told USA TODAY Sports. "All the health experts said the protocol that we’re using in all of our venues and all of our championships has no different [sic] at all in terms of our ability to mitigate risk."

The NCAA women's basketball tournament kicks off Sunday with the first slate of 16 games starting at noon on ESPN.