The NCAA has improved its weight training facilities for the women’s basketball tournament in San Antonio with more equipment having been brought into the convention center where the teams practice.
Teams were working out inside the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center on Saturday morning. Besides nine practice courts, there are expanded weight training facilities that now have heavier weights, six squat racks, benches, resistance bands and exercise balls, with everything socially distanced. There also are areas alongside the practice courts with exercise bikes, rowing machines, treadmills, yoga mats and upgraded weight equipment.
NCAA vice president for basketball Dan Gavitt apologized Friday for the disparity in the facilities between the men’s and women’s tournaments, acknowledging the NCAA fell short. Those discrepancies led some, including South Carolina coach Dawn Staley and UConn coach Geno Auriemma, to say the situation is reflective of general inequality that women’s programs are accustomed to dealing with.
The National Association of Basketball Coaches, the coaching organization for men’s basketball, put out a statement Saturday in support of the women.
“The NABC wholeheartedly stands alongside our colleagues in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and women’s basketball student-athletes in the ongoing push for equal opportunity,” NABC executive director Craig Robinson said in the statement. “Coaches and student-athletes across college basketball — men and women alike — have endured myriad challenges and sacrifices to reach this point of an unprecedented season, and all are deserving of adequate amenities and championship experiences.”
NCAA officials told ESPN’s Holly Rowe that one of the issues was that the women’s COVID-19 testing area at the convention center takes up a lot of space. Officials also said the large open space outside the women’s practice courts, which has been shown in photos on social media, was intended as a “holding area” for teams as they waited for the courts to be sanitized.
The area that now has the expanded weight room is not entirely enclosed, but curtains have been put up around it.
The original plan was to construct a bigger weight room for the Sweet 16 by converting one of the practice courts for that purpose, since fewer courts will be needed at that point of the tournament. The NCAA hasn’t explained why the same facilities wouldn’t have been in place for all 64 teams, rather than the final 16.
Much of the exercise equipment now being used in San Antonio was already ordered or waiting to be put together by the NCAA for the original Sweet 16 plan. Officials told ESPN that the NCAA did accept offers made via social media from various companies to provide equipment for the women.
Officials again said swag bags for the men and women were of equal value, though some social media posts seem to suggest a disparity. Men’s and women’s players also have the same “virtual gift suite,” where they can select gifts.
As for issues with food availability in the first couple of days that teams were in San Antonio, NCAA officials told ESPN that it was based on the service of different hotels where the teams were staying. The organizing committee has been working with local restaurants to get different food to those who have been dissatisfied.