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“Strike While The Iron Is Hot”: Trainers hope Kaplan’s gender equity review will spur change

Last season, Kelly Graves went to the NCAA women’s tournament as a coach and to the men’s tournament as a proud father and fan. The contrasts he noticed weren’t just due to his different points of view. And in the course of the publication of the The report commissioned by the NCAA When it comes to gender equality, with an emphasis on the discrepancy between the two tournaments, Graves’ observations were accurate.

“Indianapolis was more like a tournament,” said Graves, the Oregon women’s basketball coach, whose son Will played for Gonzaga’s men’s team. “It just seemed like a bigger deal there than it was in San Antonio.”

Graves said he wasn’t sure how much of it was on the NCAA and how much was on the two cities. But in general, he said, the results of the report – produced by the law firm Kaplan Hecker & Fink – did not surprise those in the world of women’s basketball.

“I guess they just brought out what we already knew,” said Graves. “The dining options, the hotels you stay in, the weight room facilities, the gift bags … I mean, come on. I can’t believe that we still have to see differences in these areas. “

The women’s basketball coaches pondered the report on Tuesday and are confident that it means steps are being taken to not only narrow the gaps, but make the women’s NCAA tournament a real success.

“Women’s basketball is not a loser,” said Tara VanDerveer, coach of the defending champions Stanford. “This is the most important thing that the NCAA leadership needs to do.

“In fact, women’s basketball and other sports – both women and men – have greater potential for generating income. It was very painful to know, but the message is always that we are losers. I know women’s basketball has great potential and it wasn’t realized. “

Arizona’s trainer Adia Barnes, whose wildcats were the 2021 national runner-up, said she, like many trainers, learned things during the interview for the Kaplan report.

“I just think there are a lot of things that we forgot because we always have,” said Barnes. “We’re just used to being treated as a minor matter. I think the infrastructure has to change. We are not valued in this model.

“Our game is growing so fast. You saw that people cared about the inequalities in the tournaments. Ten years ago maybe not enough people cared. Now they are.”

Texas coach Vic Schaefer said it was especially important that the Kaplan report have broad access to data detailing this potential and the ways in which the NCAA missed opportunities, in part because of preconceived ideas .

“We now have some real numbers and it is important that we strike while the iron is hot,” said Schäfer. “We also need to remember that the NCAA is not just one person or 10 people, it is all of us. It’s membership. It’s every university president, every faculty representative, every coach, every student athlete from. “

To that end, Graves praised the video of one of his Ducks players, Sedona Prince, that went went viral when she pointed out the stark differences between the strength training facilities for men and women in Indianapolis and San Antonio. Public humiliation was necessary.

“And it was authentic,” said Graves. “I think it made it stronger to come straight from a player, not just from coaches complaining.”

While Schaefer is now in Texas, a university that was committed to women’s sports back in the 1970s, he also praised his former employer, Mississippi State, for its commitment to women’s basketball when he started there in 2012.

“If you invest in it, your return will increase tenfold,” said Schäfer.

Schaefer and other trainers also pointed out that the Kaplan report’s conclusion that television rights have been undervalued is a sign of optimism about future revenue production if that means more bids from TV stations and streaming services.

“Competition always helps,” said former Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, who now serves as a television analysis for women’s basketball.

McGraw also said the Kaplan Report’s claim that there was insufficient communication between the planning staff for basketball tournaments for men and women, which contributed to inequalities, should be addressed fairly easily.

“We have that in most of our sports departments – at least there is someone to watch out for,” said McGraw. “And make sure that, ‘OK, you’re doing this for the men? You have to do it for the women.’ It all comes back to leadership and how you view and appreciate each sport. “

McGraw strongly opposed one of Kaplan’s recommendations: that the men’s and women’s final fours should be played in the same city at the same time. She thinks this would mean that the women’s event would be permanently overshadowed.

Schäfer felt the same way, saying he had a feeling that the women’s Final Four has been strong enough for some time to stand alone. UConn’s Geno Auriemma said he was not completely closed to considering the combination of men and women, and VanDerveer said the same thing.

“My first reaction to that was, ‘No way!'” Said VanDerveer. “But I’ve been thinking. Some of it is that we’re used to being treated as second rate, we think that’s going to happen. But if the microscope was on, we’d all be in the same place.” , more people would see it. “

Louisville women’s coach Jeff Walz said he wasn’t against having both final fours in the same city, although he was concerned that it would be a bigger logistical problem than people think.

All of the coaches said the possibility of the women eventually playing for the Sweet 16, Elite Eight and Final Four for a week – as was the case in San Antonio – could be a good compromise without the men and women in the same city.

VanDerveer and Schaefer also took note of the Kaplan report, which describes how sponsorship agreements and broadcasting rights do not necessarily match in NCAA sport, which could mean that potential sponsors who are specifically interested in women’s sport are running out of opportunities be pushed. Plus, it doesn’t really measure the value of sport this way.

Ultimately, the Kaplan report seemed very positive about the continued growth potential of women’s basketball in a very concrete way. The report also indicated that the time has come for various institutions inside and outside the NCAA to work together and communicate constantly. And that this shouldn’t be another well-meaning but toothless scouting mission that just ends on a shelf at dusk.

“I think our game is in a great place and we now have a great opportunity to take advantage of it,” said Schäfer. “What can’t happen is that nothing changes. That’s it. This is the time.”

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