Outrage across social media has grown over the past two days after photos surfaced of amenity disparities between the men’s and women’s NCAA tournament bubbles.
Players, coaches and administrators at the women’s tournament, which is being held exclusively in San Antonio, have voiced their concerns about the bubble environment.
Photos have shown the dissimilarities between the weight training equipment at the two bubbles sites, with one rack of dumbbells and a stack of yoga mats for the women’s players and a vast room filled with equipment for the men’s teams located across sites in Indiana.
There’s also been scrutiny around the disparity in food quality and the contents of gift bags each participant is given.
Here are the differences in amenities/provisions between the Women’s & Men’s NCAA Tournament I’ve seen so far - Weight room/equipment - Food - Swag Bags Photos from: @Cpav15, @sedonaprince_, @danhenry3, @alikershner pic.twitter.com/2YfCeXaJNn— AJ McCord (@AJ_McCord) March 19, 2021
With that said, Georgia women’s basketball head coach Joni Taylor said that her team has had a very normal experience since arriving in San Antonio on Wednesday afternoon, five days ahead of its matchup against 14-seed Drexel on Monday at noon.
“We are in a wonderful hotel, our meals have been great,” Taylor said in a virtual press conference on Friday. “[Director of Basketball Operations Meredith Mitchell] has done a wonderful job of making sure that we have the same meals we're used to having on the road. So our experience has been very normal. Obviously, that is not the experience that everybody has because of what you see on social media. And that is real.”
Taylor said Georgia prides itself on being prepared and noticed in the 90-page manual about the tournament that there would be no weight room until the Sweet 16 due to a lack of space to build.
Strength and conditioning coordinator Josh Rucci used that information to get permission from the athletics department to order adequate weight lifting equipment for the Bulldogs. Still, Taylor said that doesn’t excuse the disparity.
“So we are not affected. Now is it an inequity? Absolutely,” Taylor said. “I challenge [the space issues] by saying I've been in the convention center, I think there's a way that we could have been creative and built a weight room now so that all 64 teams could have had the same experience. ... I'm confident that the NCAA will address it and make things equitable. I'd be very disappointed if it didn't happen. But we were told that it was going to be that way.”
NCAA leaders like Lynn Holzman, NCAA vice president for women’s basketball, as well as NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt and NCAA Women's Basketball Committee Chair Nina King addressed the issues on Friday.
They are looking into expanding square footage to accommodate more training opportunities for the players in San Antonio. Gavitt said the responsibility is on him when facilities fail to live up to expectations. The changes should be in place by Saturday morning.
As for the food quality issue, Holzmann said it was addressed immediately with the hotel staff and she also addressed flexible food options. Lastly, she said the gift bags have different content but the dollar value between the men’s and women’s “swag bags” are equal.
“As a former women’s basketball student-athlete, it’s always been my priority to make this event the best possible experience for everyone involved,” Holzman said in a media briefing on Friday morning. “We fell short this year in what we’ve been doing to prepare in the past 60 days for 64 teams to be here in San Antonio.”
Despite the current situation in San Antonio, senior guard Gabby Connally said the Bulldogs’ only focus is Drexel and moving onto the next round.
“I'm not really too worried about or try not to think about the things that are out of our control,” Connally said in a virtual press conference on Friday. “We're all really appreciative of what's been given to us, because last year, we didn't have this tournament. And so everybody on the team is just really grateful that we're here.”
Drew Hubbard contributed to this article.