Mark Emmert Says NCAA ‘Dropped the Ball’ in Supporting Woman Athletes

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NCAA president Mark Emmert said Wednesday the NCAA has "dropped the ball" regarding its support of woman athletes during the 2021 men's and women's NCAA tournament.

Emmert's comments come in the wake of the NCAA's acknowledging unequal accommodations at the women's tournament compared with their male counterparts. The NCAA came under significant fire on March 18 after photos revealed a starkly different weight-room situation between the men's and women's tournament sites. There has also been criticism regarding the difference in the food and gift bags offered to teams at the men's and women's tournaments.

"I and everybody in the NCAA have been so disappointed in the shortcomings that have been starkly abundant and recognized here in San Antonio," Emmert told the media on Wednesday. "I am sorry for that. That is something that we should have never allowed to happen.”

The NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics sent Emmert a letter on March 19 seeking an investigation into the unequal accommodations. 

"I write to express the committee's shock and disappointment over the disparate treatment in the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament and the inequitable availability of strength training facilities," the committee's letter said. "This appears to extend to limited food options and other tournament amenities."

"It undermines the NCAA's authority as a proponent and guarantor of Title IX protections, and it sets women's college athletics back across the country."

Dan Gavitt, the NCAA senior vice president of basketball, released a statement apologizing for the disparity shortly after the committee's letter.

"We have intentionally organized basketball under one umbrella to ensure consistency and collaboration," Gavitt said. "When we fall short of these expectations, it's on me. I apologize to women's basketball student-athletes, coaches, and the women's basketball committee for dropping the ball on the weight rooms in San Antonio."

The 2021 NCAA women's tournament will come to a conclusion with the national championship on Sunday. No. 1 seeds South Carolina and Stanford will battle in the Final Four on Friday in the national semifinals, with the winner advancing to face either Arizona or UConn.

Emmert has been the NCAA's president since 2010 after a seven-year stint as president of the University of Washington.