The National College Athletics Association’s administration seems to be stumbling from one misstep to the next. It can be difficult to coordinate the interests of 1,500 schools and thousands of college athletes. When the billion-dollar honeypot known as March Madness began, the organizations continued to turn a tin ear to the social issues of the day, particularly in relation to athletes’ treatment. We will set aside the almost hostile response of the Supreme Court when it heard a case on student-athlete compensation and look at the basketball tournament’s beginning.
Flagrant foul before tipoff
Women basketball players arrived to compete in the tournament, only to find the facilities severely lacking. Oregon’s Sedona Prince posted a TikTok video that went viral of her team’s weight room, which consisted of a few tiny free weights and some sanitized yoga mats in a largely empty room. She then compared it to the men’s swanky setup of high-quality weight machines that filled a ballroom. The men’s and women’s swag bags were also unequal — women got a hat, water bottles and some low-grade items, while the men received a sales display-worthy assortment of clothing, gear, toiletries and other assorted tchotchkes.
Accommodations for mothers
It also apparently did not dawn on the NCAA that some coaching staff or players may need to travel with small children who were still breastfeeding. Children counted against the team travel party cap. Nor did the NCAA offer childcare stipends for coaches forced to leave children at home.
The NCAA’s main argument for not paying athletes is that the revenue goes toward taking care of all college sports programs, not just the men’s Division 1 football and basketball moneymakers. The men’s basketball tournament earns about $800 million, while the women’s D1 tourney earns $35 million. That women’s event is nothing to sneeze at, but surely the athlete experience for both events should be similar in quality and support.
Not just the NCAA
The NCAA does not get direct revenue from basketball except during the tournament. The rest of the year, the schools are raking in the money from merchandise, TV deals, ticket sales and other revenue streams. The NCAA’s mishaps with respect to the Women’s Final Four appear to have been entirely self-inflicted, and now the Supreme Court appears ready to force the NCAA to address the compensation issue that it has avoided for years if not decades.