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Wisconsin volleyball: the NCAA’s treatment of the tournament once again shows it does not care about women’s athletics [UPDATE]

We have a lot of pointed questions for the NCAA and ESPN.

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2019 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship Semifinals Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The NCAA has done it again.

Honestly, this could be related to a variety of things. Whether the NCAA is being toothless in punishing a program that doesn’t break their made up rules, punishing players for receiving a loan from a family friend or trying to argue in the highest court of the land that it’s fine to not give any compensation to their “student athletes” while they bank literal billions of dollars in TV revenue for just one postseason tournament.

Nope. It’s about how they are — once again — treating a women’s tournament like an afterthought.

On Thursday afternoon, reports from Big Ten Network’s Emily Ehman said that the first rounds of the NCAA Women’s volleyball tournament wouldn’t have broadcast crews or announcers.

This news highlights a flagrant disregard for these women who didn’t just work their tail off to 1) become Division 1 caliber athletes while having to succeed in the classroom as well and 2) navigate through training with COVID-19 precautions and testing throughout the season and 3) succeeded despite all the odds and worked with their teams to reach this 48-game postseason tournament.

Oh yeah, 48 teams. Not the regular 64. For some reason, the NCAA decided to only have 48 teams — a decision Wisconsin head coach Kelly Sheffield has railed against.

To make matters worse, the first round matches will be played in a convention center without locker rooms. Locker rooms. Until the Elite Eight.

Oh yeah. And the practice courts for the teams — the 48 teams, not 64 teams, that made it to the highest level of the sport to compete for a NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP — are with sport court over cement flooring.

That’s not a safe set up. Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach John Cook said on Sunday (read five days before the news of the set up was released) that if you do exactly that — throw sport court over cement — the athletes will have “a lot of issues.”

So not only is the NCAA disrespecting the female athletes, but they’re endangering them. Great.

Now, the NCAA did release three statements on Thursday addressing these three issues — lack of announcers, lack of dressing room, lack of adequate flooring that might fuck up their precious student athletes’ body — but the responses were tepid at best and using legalese at worse.

For the question of announcers, the NCAA cited the fact there is no “requirement to produce live commentary in the first or second rounds” and that COVID-related restrictions cause “additional technical challenges.”

That last point might be fair, but why is there no requirement to have commentary in earlier rounds?

Do you think that these women don’t deserve to be broadcast with a full production similar to their male peers? Because y’all made sure there were all the usual announcers in the men’s basketball tournament — that was all hosted in the same area which might have added some, how do you say, “technical challenges” — were there in person.

These are some of the top athletes in their sport. And you just spit on them.

But that’s nothing new for you, considering what you did to the women’s basketball players during their tournament. Nice “weight room.” It looks like my grandad’s. Maybe it should’ve been a wake up call but it wasn’t.

And while you treat your women’s athletes like second class citizens, their fans don’t.

Some broadcasters and coaches — including me, just a fan and writer — have offered to call these opening round games for free. So your “cost-saving” issues that you cited as to why there’s only 48 teams in this tournament won’t even be affected.

By the way, that women’s basketball tournament that you treated like shit was the most watched women’s tournament since 2014. And every single stage of the tournament was watched by more people than before.

It’s almost as if people care about women’s sports.

You can issue half-assed statements and corrections and reasons for why you lessened the amount of teams for a women’s tournament all you want. All I keep hearing is that you don’t care.

Maybe women’s college volleyball doesn’t make you as much money as college football or men’s college basketball. Maybe there are generally fewer people who watch this tournament than others that you host. Whatever.

The fact that the organization consistently fails to provide women athletes with the same resources as men reveals your real goals.

You are not an organization “dedicated to the well-being and lifelong success of college athletes,” as you so eloquently put it on your website. You are willing to take shortcuts — including having women play on concrete courts — to make the most money possible.

I just wish you would take the well-being and success of your female athletes as much as the fans who support them do. Because time and time again, you reveal you don’t give a damn about women’s sports. It’s long past time you do.

UPDATE, Friday, 4/9/21 at 7:49 p.m. CT: It looks like the NCAA and ESPN have heard us and are trying to make things better.