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Sexism Runs Rampant In NCAA Tournament

Basketball on a stadium floor with "NCAA" written on it and the feet of basketball players and a coach in the background.
Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
NCAA basketball game

In an NCAA tournament filled with surprise, one constant is sexism.

It’s NCAA basketball tournament time, that blessed point on the calendar where office production slides precipitously as visions of brackets dance in one’s head like sugarplums at Christmas.

Some yearn for the miracle as in 1998 when the Harvard women knocked off Stanford or three years ago when the UMBC men turned aside Virginia, marking the only two times that a 16th seed beat a top seed.

Yet, the madness of March is how predictably reliable the tournament is. Underdogs may capture a game or two, but things usually return to form with the favorites winning out.

The predictability of the NCAA extends off the court as well, as millions discovered this past week, and not in a pleasing way.

Specifically, the mismanagement and chauvinism bordering on flat out misogyny emanating from the headquarters of college sports was on full blast.

After last year’s tournaments were canceled because of the COVID pandemic, the NCAA was determined to stage a 2021 edition, adopting a modified version of the bubble the NBA and NHL formed last season to stage their playoffs.

The 68 men’s teams and 64 women’s teams who made the tournaments were invited to sequester in Indianapolis and San Antonio, respectively, under restrictions.

So far so good, as the squads arrived in their cities to prepare ahead of the first two rounds of contests, which opened Saturday and continue through Wednesday.

Only the Virginia Commonwealth men tested positive and were forced to withdraw from the competition, and while that stinks for the Rams and their fans, one school out of 132 isn’t all that bad, considering the minefield this year has been.

But Oregon women’s center Sedona Prince discovered that all experiences inside the bubbles among the thousands of participants were not equal.

When Prince went to get in a workout before her game, she found that the NCAA had only arranged for a handful of weights in what was supposed to pass for a weight room in San Antonio.

Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, the weight room for the men was close to fully stocked. And the bag of gifts and food for male competitors was considerably and demonstrably better than for the women in Texas.

Prince’s video of her findings went viral and set off a torrent of comment and criticism with leading coaches like South Carolina’s Dawn Staley and Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer and retired coach Muffet McGraw firing pointed salvos at society commonly and the NCAA explicitly.

And millions of people spent the weekend apparently being introduced to a new concept: Men and women aren’t treated equally in sports culture specifically or in America generally.

To those folks I’d like to offer this admittedly high-brow response: Duh!

Did it really take swag bags, weights and food to wake people up to an idea that girls and women have known from day one? The second-class status the women in San Antonio is experiencing is as old as human civilization itself.

Goodness knows, we’ve talked about it here ad nauseam over the nearly 19 years this program has been on the air. And if you’re tired of hearing about it, imagine how women who play and coach are tired of living it?

And that’s how I see it for this week. You can reach us via email with your questions and comments at Sports at large at gmail.com. And follow me on Twitter at Sports at Large.

Until next week, for all of us here, I’m Milton Kent. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games.

Get in touch:

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @SportsAtLarge

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.