Following widespread public outcry over disparities in workout facilities at the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournament sites, the association has greatly upgraded amenities in San Antonio, where the women's tournament is being staged.
Initially, nine practice courts had been set up at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center (site of AB Show 2021 this October), but weight training facilities were lacking compared to the men's tournament in the greater Indianapolis area.
As reported by ESPN's Mechelle Voepel, besides nine practice courts, there are expanded weight-training facilities that now have heavier weights, six squat racks, benches, resistance bands and exercise balls, with everything socially distanced. There also are areas alongside the practice courts with exercise bikes, rowing machines, treadmills, yoga mats and upgraded weight equipment.
NCAA vice president for basketball Dan Gavitt apologized Friday, acknowledging the NCAA fell short.
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said Saturday that she felt "betrayed" by the NCAA's "blatant sexism."
"Women athletes and coaches are done waiting, not just for upgrades of a weight room, but for equity in every facet of life," VanDerveer said in a statement. "Seeing men's health valued at a higher level than that of women, as evidenced by different testing protocols at both tournaments, is disheartening.
"This cannot continue to be business as usual. There are necessary changes that need to be made."
The National Association of Basketball Coaches, which serves men's basketball, put out a statement Saturday in support of the women.
"The NABC wholeheartedly stands alongside our colleagues in the Women's Basketball Coaches Association and women's basketball student-athletes in the ongoing push for equal opportunity," NABC executive director Craig Robinson said in the statement. "Coaches and student-athletes across college basketball — men and women alike — have endured myriad challenges and sacrifices to reach this point of an unprecedented season, and all are deserving of adequate amenities and championship experiences."
NCAA officials told ESPN's Holly Rowe that one of the issues was that the women's COVID-19 testing area at the convention center takes up a lot of space. Officials also said the large open space outside the women's practice courts, which has been shown in photos on social media, was intended as a "holding area" for teams as they waited for the courts to be sanitized.
The original plan was to construct a bigger weight room for the Sweet 16 by converting one of the practice courts for that purpose, since fewer courts will be needed at that point of the tournament. The NCAA hasn't explained why the same facilities wouldn't have been in place for all 64 teams, rather than the final 16, according to ESPN.
Much of the exercise equipment now being used in San Antonio was already ordered or waiting to be put together by the NCAA for the original Sweet 16 plan.
The late changes were met with approval. "It was great. It's nice. Everything that we needed,'' Jeff Walz, head coach at Louisville, which opens its tournament tonight against Marist. "Our strength coach was pleased, our players were pleased. We appreciate the efforts.''