The NCAA citing 'misperceptions,' 'perceived inequities,' and 'claims of inequity' raises questions about costs versus quality amid external equity review
The NCAA acknowledged disparities in the weights available at the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, but it has used raw expenses to defend its COVID-19 testing, meals and 'swag bags'
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What you need to know
Here are the highlights from today’s newsletter:
A member of the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions (COI) told three high-ranking NCAA officials: “I am not going to continue my service on the COI unless and until I am sure that women will not be treated as second-class citizens.”
NCAA President Mark Emmert told conference commissioners and university presidents and chancellors in a message that “some of the media accounts have not been fully or accurately reported” amidst the fallout from the differences in the conditions at the NCAA’s men’s and women’s tournaments. Phrases such as “perceived inequities,” “misperceptions” and “claims of inequity” were used in official NCAA messages that were sent in March, showing that NCAA executives and the basketball-watching public may not agree upon what were or weren’t allowable differences in the amenities at the two tournaments.
The different types of daily COVID-19 testing in place at the NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments – daily PCR tests for the men and daily antigen tests for the women – are likely one of the items Emmert was referring to in his comment about incomplete or inaccurate media coverage. NCAA protocols said both tests were “equally effective” but the CDC has called PCR tests the “gold standard.” In one message, Emmert wrote, “Indeed, the cost per test at the women’s tournament is higher than at the men’s.” At the NCAA Division I Council meeting on March 24, it was noted, “Current offering more expensive in San Antonio,” according to a copy of meeting notes.
Vivature’s KONGiQ app, which the NCAA women’s tournament manual described as “an innovative app … that will guide all participants through the COVID-19 testing process” reportedly encountered issues in the days leading up to the tournament, forcing tournament organizers to tell participating teams to “please delete the app and ignore communications from this platform” the day after the tournament field was selected.
Any admitted shortcomings or recommendations that are outlined in law firm Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP’s external equity review of the NCAA’s championships could focus on the disparities in the weights that were made available in first two rounds of the NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments, rather than other differences. Players, coaches, fans and media members have highlighted disparities between the two tournaments and it appears many of the NCAA’s rebuttals lie within its expense reports. The NCAA has cited similar, or greater, spending on the COVID-19 testing, food options and swag bags for the women’s tournament. If the conditions at the two tournaments are compared simply based upon raw expenditures rather than the quality of testing, food and swag bags, then women, their coaches, fans and advocates could be underwhelmed, if not disappointed, by the final report from the equity review.
I think this story took place at a Chili’s. Maybe it was an Applebee’s or a LongHorn Steakhouse. It could’ve been a Texas Roadhouse. I forget at which quintessential American, family, neighborhood restaurant chain this story took place, but you get the point, and it’s frankly not particularly material to the story. It was a winter afternoon in a Big Ten college town, where I had traveled with the Indiana women’s basketball team as the fill-in radio voice for the Hoosiers during a conference road trip.
At a team lunch at that Chili’s or Applebee’s or LongHorn Steakhouse or Texas Roadhouse, I watched as the Indiana women’s basketball coaching staff crowdsourced niceties and action verbs from its staff members as part of a text message that they sent to their counterparts on the Indiana men’s basketball coaching staff. Indiana’s women’s team had a big game coming up – at home against a conference foe that was ranked in the top 25 – and the Hoosiers had recently gone at least a week or two without having practiced in Assembly Hall, where Indiana’s basketball teams play their home games. Cook Hall, the school’s basketball practice facility, is located next door.
So there were the team’s coaches, huddled up at one end of an extended table inside one of those classic restaurant chains during a road trip, as they tried to figure out how to secure practice time in their own home arena, as part of an intra-department text message that doubled as a Mad Libs session involving some combination of sidling, negotiation and maybe even a little bit of strong-armed force.
At the time, the Indiana men’s basketball program was notorious for not having a fixed practice schedule. Things would change on the fly and based on this one anecdote, the women’s program may have taken some collateral damage from that approach.
It was almost a scene out of a junior high or high school lunchroom, as the women’s basketball coaching staff tried to strike a delicate balance in its text message of being friendly and complimentary but also clear, direct and forceful. It was the program’s unfortunate reality as it was forced to succumb to the ego or idiosyncrasies or sporadic scheduling of someone, or something, else. Whether directly or indirectly, at least on this one occasion, Indiana’s women’s basketball team had to go through the men’s basketball team to try to arrange practice time in Assembly Hall before one of its biggest games of the regular season.
Maybe that kind of text message was a one-time occurrence, maybe it was sent weekly that season. I don’t know. But as I read each new social media post and report that detailed the inequities between the NCAA’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in March, I kept coming back to that lunch and a rising Big Ten women’s basketball program doing all it could, just to schedule a practice in its home gym before hosting a ranked conference opponent.
By the way, results shouldn’t dictate opportunity, but if they did, you could argue that Indiana’s men’s basketball coaches should be the ones who have to text their counterparts on the women’s team to see if they can squeeze in the some extra practice time in Assembly Hall. Since Indiana’s women’s basketball program embarked on that road trip, its winning percentage is .675 overall (compared to .510 for the men’s team) with a .651 winning percentage in Big Ten regular season play (.421 for the men).
During that span, the women’s program has four more NCAA tournament wins than the men’s program has NCAA tournament appearances, with an Elite Eight appearance for the women this season, plus a WNIT title in 2018.
This story is a reminder that there could be cultures, attitudes and behaviors, even if subconscious – although that shouldn’t be an excuse – that could be so pervasive and so ingrained in college athletics that they allowed for an ecosystem where some of the NCAA tournament conditions in San Antonio were noticeably inferior to those in Indianapolis.
It’s also an unfortunate reminder that women, their coaches and fans often have to advocate for themselves and their sport because if they don’t, they’re not always guaranteed to receive equal or fair treatment.
That has never been as relevant as it is in the spring of 2021.
For as much as Mark Emmert’s team in Indianapolis screwed up by not providing the women’s NCAA tournament with equitable amenities – and let’s be clear, they screwed up – there’s also a good chance that you can find at least a few glaring examples of gender disparities or inequities at your alma mater or other nearby institutions, which collectively make up the NCAA’s membership.
University presidents and chancellors of the NCAA’s member institutions have real power to enact change, as do athletic directors and other administrators who sit on one of the NCAA’s many boards, committees, councils and working groups. Even if their business cards don’t say “NCAA,” they – or at least the institutions where they work – are the NCAA, collectively. For every message – literal or metaphorical – that’s directed to Emmert & Co. in Indianapolis, the members of the NCAA’s Board of Governors, Division I Board of Directors and the NCAA’s other boards, committees and councils should be cc’d, either literally or metaphorically.
Real change must also be demanded from within the association’s membership, especially if the external equity review of the NCAA’s championships that will be commissioned by Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, which was retained by the NCAA, falls short in the court of public opinion in how it views the NCAA’s treatment of women.
An NCAA Committee on Infractions member will not continue to serve on the committee ‘unless and until I am sure that women will not be treated as second-class citizens’
One of the biggest stories during the NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments was the #NotNCAAProperty movement, as the circumstances surrounding this year’s NCAA tournaments were ripe for a potential labor movement. As it turns out, the idea of protesting against the NCAA this spring wasn’t limited to the athletes.
Sarah Wake serves as associate general counsel at Northwestern University. She also serves on the NCAA’s Division I Committee on Infractions, which is the NCAA body that decides infraction cases involving member institutions and their employees. It’s a committee that consists of 18 men and six women, according to its current roster, but the latter number has potentially dropped to five, even if only temporarily.
On March 23 – the first day of the second round of the women’s NCAA tournament – Wake told the NCAA’s Chief Operating Officer/Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy, Interim Vice President of Hearing Operations Karl Hicks and Director of Legal Affairs and Associate General Counsel Jared Tidemann that she is “not going to continue my service on the COI unless and until I am sure that women will not be treated as second-class citizens,” according to a copy of Wake’s email that was obtained by Out of Bounds.
Wake made it clear she was writing in her individual capacity, as a member of the Committee on Infractions, but she added in parentheses, “However, I am certain that Northwestern would support what I say below.”
“In short, the way this situation has unfolded is abhorrent, embarrassing, hurtful and unacceptable,” Wake wrote of the disparities between the two basketball tournaments.
In a list of questions provided to the NCAA while reporting this newsletter, Out of Bounds asked what the NCAA is doing specifically to address Wake’s concerns. An NCAA spokesperson did not address the question in her response.
Out of Bounds filed a series of public records requests to more than 50 Division I institutions during the first two weeks of the NCAA’s men’s and women’s tournaments, each one requesting emails sent or received by a university president, chancellor or athletic director that pertained to the disparities between the tournaments or the resulting responses from the NCAA, Emmert or the NCAA Board of Governors. The universities included schools that participated in just one of the NCAA men’s or women’s tournaments, schools that participated in both tournaments and schools that participated in neither. If the first public records request to a university turned up empty, a second public records request was filed to the university with different search criteria.
Based on the responses received from 36 universities, the email that Wake sent to NCAA executives is the only example of an administrator taking any kind of action in response to the disparities between the two tournaments. These public records requests are obviously not an all-encompassing litmus test of what is or isn’t being done in response to the conditions at the 2021 NCAA Tournaments – there could be phone calls, text messages, Zoom calls, emails that didn’t meet the search criteria and even in-person meetings in San Antonio or Indianapolis during the NCAA tournaments – but when numerous public records requests with search terms such as “women’s tournament,” “women’s basketball tournament,” “women’s NCAA tournament,” “Emmert” and “Board of Governors” almost unanimously turn up empty, it’s fair to wonder why.
If anything, the few responsive documents obtained from the public records requests highlight potential differences in the how the NCAA and members of the public view the disparities.
Emmert in a memo: ‘some of the media accounts have not been fully or accurately reported’
On March 20, which was the day before the first round of the women’s NCAA tournament tipped off, Emmert sent a message to the members of the NCAA Board of Governors, Division I Board of Directors, Division I Council and Committee on Women’s Athletics, as well as Division I conference commissioners, writing, “You are probably aware of some of the observations and criticisms covered in social and external media regarding claims of inequity in testing and resources between the men’s and women’s basketball championships.”
Later, in a message that Emmert sent to conference commissioners and university presidents and chancellors on March 25 – a message regarding the NCAA’s decision to retain Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP for an external equity review of all of the NCAA’s championships – Emmert wrote in the opening paragraph, “While some of the media accounts have not been fully or accurately reported there are certainly areas where we dropped the ball.”
Again, Emmert attempted to deflect some of the criticism or rationalize some of the disparities by blaming incomplete or inaccurate media coverage. The root of the coverage was based on social media posts from athletes, coaches and staff members who were at the women’s NCAA tournament and experienced the conditions firsthand.
It’s unclear which topics or media coverage Emmert was referring to when he wrote that “some of the media accounts have not been fully or accurately reported,” although based on notes that were taken during the NCAA Division I Council meeting on March 24, which Out of Bounds later obtained, Emmert may have been referring to COVID-19 testing, as well as the meals that were available and the branding of the women’s tournament.
In regards to the meal offerings at the two tournaments, the DI Council meeting notes state, “Conclusion: No funding difference.” The notes say the COVID-19 testing in San Antonio was actually more expensive than in Indianapolis and that the “use or alignment in marks for March Madness” is “perceived as a NCAA issue; however, this has been the preference of women’s tournament leadership.”
However, The Wall Street Journal reported that the NCAA withheld the “March Madness” brand from being used for women’s basketball.
According to the DI Council meeting notes, the difference in the weights that were provided to the men’s and women’s basketball players appears to be the only specific issue – among the weights, testing, meals and tournament branding – in which the DI Council acknowledged any operational shortcomings, with a sub-bullet point that said, “Admission of Issue.”
The notes list overall conclusions and a bullet point that stated “misses in communication” was listed as the first conclusion, ahead of “admitted misses in execution.”
Next was “Need to revamp an old model.”
The notes indicate the NCAA might view its primary shortcoming in March as one related to communication and public relations, rather than one that’s specific to the planning and staging of NCAA championships.
The DI Council meeting notes and the messages sent by NCAA executives raise questions about what the external review from Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP will conclude and what long-term changes will be proposed if the rest of the issues – besides the weight room disparities – are ultimately explained by the NCAA as “misses in communication” or due to “media accounts [that] have not been fully or accurately reported.”
On March 23, NCAA employees, or their representatives, met with two strength and conditioning coaches in San Antonio – one from the Pac-12 and one from the SEC – and additional conversations with athletes were planned, so don’t be surprised if any admitted missteps or recommendations focus on the weights that were made available in the first two rounds, more so than the testing, meal options, swag bags or branding of the women’s tournament.
The differences in the weights that were available to athletes
The Athletic’s Diamond Leung reported that Emmert told the Economic Club of Indiana in March, “The 'weight rooms' that were shown on the videos, those were never intended to be weight rooms. Those were exercise rooms before the kids went onto the court for practice...But once the video's out there, the video's out there."
The videos Emmert was referring to – the most viral of which came from Oregon’s Sedona Prince, who posted a video on TikTok, then Twitter – show 12 lonely dumbbells. “So for the NCAA March Madness, the biggest tournament in college basketball for women,” Prince said in the video, before switching to her rear-facing camera in another cut, “this is our weight room,” as she points at the single rack of dumbbells.
According to a copy of the final edition of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship participant manual that was obtained by Out of Bounds, Emmert was right when he said, “The 'weight rooms' that were shown on the videos, those were never intended to be weight rooms.” But that in itself is still an example of a difference between the two tournaments.
According to the manual, “each team will have access to a stationary bike and free weight pyramid within holding areas and/or team practice locations” during the first and second rounds. A “workout/weight facility” was scheduled to be available starting in the Sweet 16.
Similar to the NCAA’s public response, “limited space” was cited in the manual as an explanation for the limited workout facilities in the first two rounds, which Prince quickly debunked. (Prince, by the way, gained 149,182 Instagram followers from March 24 through March 30, according to Social Blade, showing the size of the audience there is for women’s basketball.)
The “Weight & Workout Facilities/Outdoor Spaces” section of the manual was highlighted in green, which represented a “major update” in the final edition.
Photos and videos that were posted on social media in San Antonio, including Prince’s video, showed what could be described as a “free weight pyramid” that was available to athletes during the opening weekend of the tournament, and those posts helped set off the social media firestorm against the NCAA over the amenities at the women’s tournament.
“The weights in my house are better than what was initially provided to the women,” wrote Wake, the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions member, in her email to members of the NCAA’s senior leadership.
The differences in COVID-19 testing
“Perhaps most troubling, the women are receiving rapid antigen tests, while the men are receiving PCR tests,” wrote Wake, who later continued, “There is no medical or scientific reason to administer different tests in these similar environments, other than to save money.”
Wake, like many other observers, was upset that the women received a lesser standard of daily COVID-19 testing and she posited that the respective costs of antigen and PCR tests was the reason why the players, coaches and other personnel at the men’s tournament received daily PCR testing, while those at the women’s tournament received daily antigen testing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “The ‘gold standard’ for clinical diagnostic detection of SARS-CoV-2 remains NAATs, such as RT-PCR. Thus, it may be necessary to confirm an antigen test result with a nucleic acid amplification test, especially if the result of the antigen test is inconsistent with the clinical context.”
In one section of the DI Council meeting notes that was titled, “Perceived/Real failures with the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament,” one bullet point read, “Testing: Perceived less investment, less importance,” with sub-bullet points that stated, “Based on localities” and “Current offering more expensive in San Antonio.”
“The decisions about testing were never about money,” Emmert wrote in a memo on March 20. “Indeed, the cost per test at the women’s tournament is higher than at the men’s.”
In a joint memo that NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline, Vice President of Women’s Basketball Lynn Holzman and Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt sent to coaches, athletes, Division I conference commissioners and members of the NCAA Board of Governors, the Division I Board of Directors on March 20, the three executives wrote, “We want to directly address the discussions that have been circulating around perceived inequities in testing at the Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments and clarify these misperceptions.”
They later continued:
The NCAA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group advised that either daily PCR
or daily antigen testing were equally effective models for basketball championships, and they recommended adopting the testing approach that worked best with the provider and local health officials. The protocol of daily antigen tests and weekly PCR tests was reviewed and approved by the director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.
The final edition of the NCAA women’s tournament participant manual stated, “It is anticipated that daily testing will be primarily antigen (administered antigen nasal swab) with one PCR test per week.”
While the cost per COVID-19 test in San Antonio was actually greater than that in Indianapolis, the cost was seen by many observers as the explanation behind the discrepancy, rather than the discrepancy itself. Even if inaccurate, it was a theory that was arguably not without merit; the fixed COVID-19 testing costs that the NCAA had secured for its member schools last fall included PCR tests from Quest Diagnostics that were roughly three times as expensive as the antigen tests.
In a list of questions provided to the NCAA, Out of Bounds asked if the NCAA acknowledges that the issue many observers took with the COVID-19 testing was the quality and accuracy of the tests available, not the cost of the tests.
In response, an NCAA spokesperson referred Out of Bounds to two NCAA news releases. One release, which was published after the men’s tournament was already underway, stated in part, “The NCAA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group advised that either daily PCR or daily antigen testing were equally effective models for basketball championships, and they recommended adopting the testing approach that worked best with the provider and local health officials.”
The other release, which was a statement from Emmert on March 25 that announced the external review from Kaplan Hecker, included that “As part of this effort, we are evaluating the current and previous resource allocation to each championship, so we have a clear understanding of costs, spend and revenue.”
That line suggests the NCAA might view the differences at the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments on a head-to-head, line-expense basis, which means NCAA executives may not even view all of them as differences. Therefore, Kaplan Hecker might also frame the issues that way, even if the greater cost per test in San Antonio resulted in a lesser, but still association-acceptable type of daily testing.
Women’s basketball programs were told to ‘please delete the app’ that was planned to assist with COVID-19 testing
The NCAA announced on Jan. 4 that it was “partnering with a local health provider to administer COVID-19 testing” for the Division I men’s basketball tournament, then a week later in another news release, Diamond Health and Vivature, Inc., were selected as the testing provider for all other winter NCAA championships besides men’s basketball.
At the time, the NCAA noted, “Division I Women’s Basketball is still in negotiations with regards to its testing vendor.” On Feb. 12, Diamond Health was announced as the testing provider for the women’s NCAA tournament. Like several other DI women’s basketball tournament updates, it came weeks after the equivalent announcement for the DI men’s tournament.
The women’s tournament manual stated, “Diamond Health has been enlisted to manage all facets of the testing process, including pre-registration, authentication of previous negative tests, team scheduling and administration of on-site tests, and necessary reporting to, and communication with, local health authorities. Diamond Health is using an innovative app called KONGiQ that will guide all participants through the COVID-19 testing process.”
In the event of a “not clear” test result, the NCAA women’s tournament manual stated, “Diamond Health will immediately notify a Team COVID Health Officer and the travel party member who returns a ‘NOT CLEAR’ test result via the KONGiQ app. The individual will be notified of the next step in the process (i.e., an additional test, quarantine).”
However, after several days of apparent issues with the app, on March 16 – the day after the women’s NCAA tournament field was announced – tournament organizers sent a message that said to delete the KONGiQ app. “Due to issues with the KONGiQ app, we are no longer using this,” stated a message from tournament organizers. “Please delete the app and ignore communications from this platform.”
The day before, tournament organizers provided an online form for programs to submit required medical information, including an attestation form, vaccination records and proof of infection if the infection occurred within the last 90 days. “Love how they’re now asking for the same info I provided in a spreadsheet but each individual has to fill it out,” one athletic trainer wrote in an email.
Out of Bounds asked the NCAA, Diamond Health and Vivature, Inc., what the issue was with the KONGiQ app. An NCAA spokesperson did not address the question in her response to Out of Bounds. One athletic trainer for a team that qualified for the tournament speculated that the app experienced issues as 64 basketball programs’ traveling parties, each of which included up to 34 people, all attempted to register.
At the time of publishing, Diamond Health and Vivature have not responded to media requests that asked what the issue was, or if another app or platform was used instead.
The first ‘guiding principle’ in the women’s NCAA tournament manual was ‘accountability’
Ironically, under the “NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee” subheading on the mission statements page of the NCAA women’s tournament participant manual, the manual stated, “The committee’s actions will be guided by its commitment to a fair and equitable championship while embracing sportsmanship, diversity, student-athlete welfare and education.”
USA TODAY reported that there were twice as many full-time staff members who were devoted to putting on the NCAA men’s tournament compared to the women’s tournament:
But some interesting topics emerged during the call with coaches that could pave the way for changes within the NCAA to enhance the women’s tournament in relatively short order.
One of them occurred when UCLA coach Cori Close asked [Senior Vice President for Basketball Dan] Gavitt how many full-time staff were devoted to putting on of the tournaments.
“I believe it’s 12 on the men’s staff and six on the women’s staff, thereabouts,” Gavitt said, which certainly could provide an explanation for how basic things were missed.
ESPN reported that Vice President for Women’s Basketball Lynn Holzman had asked for additional staff.
The first “guiding principle” in the participant manual was “Accountability: Standardize administrative procedures with the primary focus of the championship being placed on the participating institutions, their student-athletes, coaches, administrators, alumni and followers.”
“The NCAA supposedly has an anti-discrimination policy related to championships, which host sites have to adhere to,” Wake wrote in her email to NCAA executives, later continuing, “In this particular case, you violated your own policy; it was the NCAA that created a discriminatory environment. What consequences will stem from this?”
Emmert, the president of the NCAA, does have bosses of his own, and they’re the members of the NCAA Board of Governors. The Associated Press reported that Georgetown University President John DeGioia, who’s the chairman of the NCAA’s Board of Governors, expressed confidence in Emmert. “We have confidence in Mark’s continuing leadership of the NCAA,” DeGioia told the AP.
During a recent media availability, Emmert said, “Whether I'm the leader is not up to me. I work for a board representing all universities.”
This is why the onus for action falls back on university presidents, chancellors and athletic directors, too.
One line from the DI Council meeting notes from March is especially illustrative of college athletics in 2021. University of Texas at San Antonio Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Lisa Campos asked if the review of the NCAA’s championships would included the WNIT and the NCAA College Basketball Academy.
Part of Emmert’s response, according to the notes, was paraphrased as, “The President went on to elaborate that we are here because of the years of doing it this way historically.”
It’s a line that could be used to explain many of the issues the NCAA is facing today, whether it’s gender equity, NCAA v. Alston, name, image and likeness (NIL) legislation, or changes to transfer policies.
“How can the NCAA take the position in the name, image, and likeness and antitrust cases that you put student athletes first and support the ‘collegiate model of athletics,’” Wake wrote, “when revenue and budgets are so clearly a main driver of your decision making when it comes to how you treat students?”
The SEC’s Sankey takes a stand
At the Division I Council meeting on March 24, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey tried to distance the Division I conferences from the NCAA in regards to the blame for the inequities at the NCAA women’s tournament, according to the meeting notes.
Sankey said one of the NCAA DI women’s tournament venues had a sign that stated, “I Choose D-II.” The notes said that Sankey said the NCAA can learn from the conferences, rather than vice versa, and that the Division I conferences shouldn’t be lumped into the criticism of the NCAA.
Emmert’s response was deferential to Sankey and his concerns, according to the meeting notes.
It certainly wasn’t the first time in recent memory that the SEC, and specifically Sankey, has questioned the NCAA or attempted to set the record straight with the NCAA regarding a significant issue in college athletics.
At a Division I Council meeting in October 2020, Sankey “questioned [Emmert] about the slow moving infraction cases around MBB, especially stemming out of Attorney General’s Office (Southern District of NY),” according to a copy of notes from the meeting that were obtained by Out of Bounds. “He mentioned many of his basketball coaches are frustrated by the whole process and Emmert agreed and they were trying to address as quickly and efficiently as possible but the criticism is fair and will work to address.”
In August 2019, Sankey sent a letter to Big East Conference Commissioner Val Ackerman and Ohio State Athletics Director Gene Smith – the two co-chairs of the NCAA Board of Governors Federal and State Legislation Working Group – and three NCAA executives were cc’d.
“The scope of NIL rights has been the subject of considerable public confusion that may have, among other things, given rise to a public perception that the NCAA and its member conferences and institutions are making use of student-athlete NIL rights when that is not in fact correct,” Sankey wrote. “Accordingly, we strongly urge the Committee avoid improperly characterizing any NCAA legislative proposals designed to permit student-athletes to be paid for operating or working in various businesses as modifications to the NCAA rules concerning NIL rights.”
Specifically in regards to gender equity, but also on a larger scale, the NCAA will make improvements if and when its membership – or the law – demands it, and that requires decisive action – and sometimes even derision – such as that taken by Wake, who proclaimed that she won’t continue to serve on a prominent NCAA committee if things don’t change.
“I was at first angry,” Wake wrote, “but that anger has since turned to sadness. As a former athlete, a mother, and a woman, I know firsthand the discrimination that women face on a daily basis. It is truly painful to know that an organization I spend hundreds of hours a year volunteering for – an organization that purports to protect and support students – is blatantly discriminating against these young women.”