NCAA misses the mark on women’s sports… again


The NCAA is under fire once again. 

Mere weeks after facing backlash over their treatment of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, the NCAA is once again facing criticism over the women’s volleyball tournament. 

Big Ten analyst Emily Ehman was the first to break the news Thursday, writing that the construction of the eight practice courts inside the convention center creates a high-risk injury environment. Additionally, players won’t have locker rooms until the Elite Eight, meaning they would have to change into uniforms on the bench.

Nebraska’s John Cook voiced his concern about use of the convention center. With four competition courts laid out in two halls, matches will be played simultaneously in the first and second rounds, likening it to a high school club tournament. 

“It should feel special,” Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield said. “For a lot of people that won’t be the case.”

The first two rounds of the tournament will be streamed on ESPN’s digital platforms without play-by-play or analysis. 

“I really hope they take a closer look at that. I have a feeling that could blow up as much as what the weight room stuff did in women’s basketball,” Sheffield told the Associated Press. “It’s stunning they’re not (having) a broadcast team. To me it’s just lazy… that you’re just going to be looking at silence while watching NCAA tournament games.” 

That includes teams that don’t get very much television coverage in the first place, Ehman adds. 

“They’ve made so many sacrifices to get to this point,” she said in a phone call on Friday. “And now that they’re here they don’t even get commentators to talk about them during a match.”

Purdue coach Dave Shondell added to the criticism, calling it “BUSH LEAGUE.”

The NCAA responded on Twitter, stating that “players were never expected to change clothes on the bench” and that secure changing areas would be provided for each team. Additionally, “as in previous years, there is no requirement to produce coverage of or provide live commentary in the first and second rounds of the Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship” even despite the fact that many have offered up their services for free. 

“The fact that you’re saying, ‘oh we’re not required to so we’re not going to’ doesn’t make it any better,” Ehman said. She mentioned that while she doesn’t know if the no-commentary decision stems from ESPN or the NCAA, it’s still unacceptable.

“It doesn’t really make sense to me why that’s an adequate response and why they’re not providing commentary,” she said. “I’m sure if they really wanted to and truly cared about it they would have pushed to have commentary as they have had for a lot of NCAA championships in the past.”

Author’s note: Following publication of this article, ESPN has updated its coverage to include commentary on the first two rounds of the tournament.