EDITORIAL: Here's our simple message to the NCAA — do better

NCAA President Mark Emmert.
  • The NCAA has come under fire on multiple fronts during March Madness.
  • The organization has been criticized for unequal treatment for women athletes, compared to the men.
  • The NCAA has also been the focus of criticism of the #NotNCAAProperty movement.

Do better.

That’s our simple message to the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The governing body for most college athletic programs in America has received more than a little criticism over the years — most of it deserved.

The NCAA, far too often, seems more concerned about improving its own bottom line, rather than protecting and promoting the interests of the student-athletes under its purview.

Additionally, unequal treatment for female athletes has been a long and ongoing NCAA problem.

The NCAA’s penchant for penny-pinching and inequality was again exposed this week during the organization’s premier events — the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. And it was a student-athlete who justifiably took the NCAA to task.

Weight-room inequality: A video, from Oregon’s Sedonia Prince, showed off a single rack of dumbbells and yoga mats available for the women’s players competing in San Antonio. The men, meanwhile, had a fully-stocked weight room before the start of their tournament in Indianapolis.

The video went viral with nearly 16 million views.

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It set off a backlash condemning the inequities between the men’s and women’s tournaments that drew the attention of NBA and WNBA players as well as former coaches.

The NCAA, eventually, did the right thing, apologizing for the unequal treatment and creating a fully-stocked workout room at the San Antonio convention center near the practice courts.

Still, it was fairly typical for the NCAA — reacting to a problem rather than avoiding the problem in the first place.

Stanford women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer calls out NCAA on 'blatant sexism'

COVID-19 inequities: The dust had hardly settled from the weight-room controversy when the NCAA was hit with another charge of inequality — this time regarding COVID-19 testing.

The NCAA had run 8,015 tests through Saturday with only one confirmed positive at the women’s tournament using daily antigen testing. The men are using daily PCR tests, considered more accurate. A few false positives at the women’s tournament have been quickly retested using the PCR test.

Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer issued a statement Saturday night upset at “evidence of blatant sexism” that is “purposeful and hurtful” leaving her program feeling betrayed by the NCAA.

“Women athletes and coaches are done waiting, not just for upgrades of a weight room, but for equity in every facet of life,” the statement read. “Seeing men’s health valued at a higher level than that of women, as evidenced by different testing protocols at both tournaments, is disheartening.”

#NotNCAAProperty: Inequality for female athletes, unfortunately, is not the only troubling issue facing the NCAA.

A group of men’s basketball players recently launched the #NotNCAAProperty movement.

Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association, wrote in a letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert that he and the players leading the movement want to discuss “the NCAA’s prohibition on college athlete compensation for use of their name, image and likeness as well as the unacceptable discriminatory treatment of female athletes in the NCAA March Madness Tournament and throughout NCAA member institutions.”

Many college athletes in the revenue-generating sports of football and men’s basketball have long believed they have been exploited without just compensation, while the NCAA and its member universities rake in millions of dollars.

Put it all together, and the NCAA has endured a rather bumpy ride during is signature March Madness extravaganza. The games, as always, have been great, but the organization obviously has a long way to go to match the effort of the college athletes.

It’s simple, really. The NCAA must do better.