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Complaints Spur ESPN to Expand Volleyball Coverage

Paul Steinbach

ESPN responded almost immediately to complaints last week that its planned coverage of the NCAA women's volleyball tournament was inadequate.

Thursday's complaints, most notably from top-seeded Wisconsin's head coach Kelly Sheffield, centered on the fact that the tournament's first two rounds were to be live-streamed by ESPN without any play-by-play announcers or color commentators.

"I really hope they take a closer look at that. I have a feeling that could blow up as much as what the weight room stuff did in women's basketball," said Sheffield, referring to criticism of the NCAA for not initially providing a full weight-training area to women's basketball teams. "It's stunning they're not [having] a broadcast team. To me, it's just lazy. You're just going to be looking at silence while watching NCAA tournament games."

Related: Criticism of NCAA Hits Women's Volleyball Tournament

The network announced Friday that — for the first time in the history of its women's volleyball tournament coverage — that it would give the full broadcast treatment throughout the first two rounds. "ESPN is committed to presenting the NCAA Volleyball Championship in its entirety for the first time this year, including the first and second round matches," the network said. "Despite the variety of challenges related to the pandemic, all 47 matches will be live on an ESPN platform and will include commentators."

The national semifinals will air on ESPN. The championship match will air on ESPN2.

The NCAA previously said in a statement that ESPN is not required to produce any coverage of the first and second rounds and that COVID-19 restrictions create technical challenges. The association had already taken the precaution of moving the tournament from fall until spring, reducing its field from 64 teams to 48, and siting it in one location — Omaha, Neb.

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