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Emmert speaks on gender equity, antitrust case

NCAA president provides updates on issues in media briefing from San Antonio

NCAA President Mark Emmert today addressed the media via videoconference from the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship in San Antonio. He addressed several topics critical to the future of college sports, including issues surrounding gender equity at national championships.

Emmert stressed there is no room for discrepancies between the treatment of athletes at championships based on gender, specifically discussing issues at the championship in San Antonio.

“It’s evident we dropped the ball in supporting women’s athletes. We can’t do that. That’s a failure that should not exist,” Emmert said. 

“We need to use it as a pivot point to say, ‘What do we need to do better? How do we make up for those shortcomings from this day on and create the gender equity we all talk about to make sure it’s reality, not just language?’” Emmert said. “We have to do that. I have to do that. Everybody has to be committed to that. We cannot let down these amazing athletes ever again.”

A link to the transcript of today’s news conference is here.

Working with coaches, external review 

The Women’s Basketball Coaches Association recently sent a letter to Emmert requesting a “Commission on Gender Inequity in College Sports” led by people chosen by both the WBCA and NCAA. He met with coaches from the WBCA after the press conference.

“The WBCA is a critical partner. They’re the experts on women’s basketball. They have more knowledge and understanding of the game than anybody else. They have to be an essential part of understanding all of this,” Emmert said. “Together we can figure out a structure that we can all feel comfortable with.”

Emmert announced last week an external gender equity review of all championships. The NCAA hired Kaplan Hecker & Fink, which has significant experience in Title IX and gender equity issues, to evaluate current practices and policies and provide recommendations on ways to improve.

“While the gender equity review has to begin and focus on women’s basketball, it’s not going to be only about women’s basketball,” Emmert said. “We also need to make sure that if we’re dropping the ball in basketball, that we’re not doing it in lacrosse, golf, tennis or any other sport that we have men’s and women’s tournaments in. It’s got to be gender equity across the board.

“The WBCA is going to be front and center in helping us sort out what we need to do here, and I look forward to working with them.”

Supreme Court case and its impact on college sports

The Supreme Court today heard oral arguments about the NCAA’s authority to determine rules regarding benefits tied to academics that student-athletes can receive. The lawsuit challenges the rules that seek to preserve the distinction between collegiate and professional sports and are essential to providing academic opportunities for nearly half a million college athletes each year.

“The case is about an antitrust issue that really focuses on who has the authority and ability to make decisions around college sports in general. This question, regardless of what the Supreme Court does or doesn’t decide, won’t resolve whether or not student-athletes should be ‘paid,’” Emmert said. “My opinion, and more importantly the opinions of the 1,100 schools that participate in college sports, is that student-athletes need to be students, not employees of the universities. That the relationship between a university and a college athlete needs to be one of university and student, not of employer and employee.”