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The 3 most eye-opening details of the investigation into NCAA inequities

South Carolina takes on Texas in the Elite Eight of the 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament in San Antonio. (C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The long-awaited NCAA gender equity review, conducted by an outside law firm, was released on Tuesday. The investigation, which launched in the wake of widespread criticism of inadequate facilities and amenities at the 2021 women’s basketball championship, revealed that the NCAA has fallen short of upholding its commitment to gender equity.

As a result, the review called for the NCAA to conduct annual assessments for the next five years that will track their progress on gender equity.

Here are the three most eye-opening findings from the investigation into the NCAA’s inequities, prepared by civil rights attorney Roberta A. Kaplan of Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP.

The NCAA has greatly undervalued the women’s tournament

Currently, the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament is broadcast as part of a package media deal with 29 other NCAA championships. That deal costs ESPN roughly $34 million per year through 2023-24. The Kaplan report, citing an independent analysis by sports media and marketing experts, found that the women’s tournament on its own will be worth between $81 million and $112 million annually by 2025.

The revenue the NCAA generates from its media deal for the men’s basketball tournament, the report argues, is prioritized “over everything else in ways that create, normalize and perpetuate gender inequities.”

The NCAA’s “mistaken narrative”

The Kaplan report noted that the disparities between the men’s and women’s tournaments were not confined to this year. The NCAA’s structure and systems, according to the report, “are designed to maximize the value of and support to the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship as the primary source of funding for the NCAA and its membership.”

As such, the report argues that the NCAA “does not have the structures or systems in place to identify, prevent or address those inequities.”

It also found that the NCAA’s neglect of women’s basketball has been “perpetuating a mistaken narrative” that it’s not a valuable sport for the NCAA and is destined to be a “money loser.”

What’s next?

As a result of the findings, Kaplan has put forth several recommendations for changes the NCAA should implement to help bridge the gap between men’s and women’s sports.

First, it recommends the NCAA use the “March Madness” branding for both the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. The branding has traditionally been associated only with the men’s Division I basketball tournament, for which the NCAA came under fire in the spring. The NCAA has since said it will consider changing that approach to include the women’s tournament. The report also suggested that the NCAA hold the men’s and women’s tournaments at the same site to create opportunities for cross-promotion and sponsorships.

Additionally, Kaplan recommended an overhaul in the leadership structure of Division I basketball that prioritizes gender equity and coordination between the men’s and women’s tournaments. The report also calls for a real-time gender equity audit of each tournament to be conducted every year.

Coaches across women’s basketball have applauded the review since its release Tuesday. The NCAA Board of Governors said in a statement that it is “wholly committed to an equitable experience among its championships,” calling on NCAA President Mark Emmert to take immediate action.

Canada edges out U.S. Hockey in World Championship win

UTICA, NEW YORK - APRIL 14: Team Canada raises the Championship Trophy after winning The Gold by defeating The United States in OT during the 2024 IIHF Women's World Championship Gold Medal game at Adirondack Bank Center on April 14, 2024 in Utica, New York. (Photo by Troy Parla/Getty Images)

Canada got its revenge on Sunday, winning the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship and taking down the U.S. in a 6-5 overtime classic.

Marie-Philip Poulin, a longtime star for Canada, got her first two goals of the tournament, while Danielle Serdachny had the game-winner. 

"I hate to say you're not trying to rely on it, expect it, but I know I've grown to expect it," Canada coach Troy Ryan said of Philip-Poulin. "Tonight was just a whole other level. I could see in her eyes every time we called her name that she was ready to go. It's just special."

The win came after Canada lost 1-0 to the U.S. in the group stage of the tournament. On Sunday, the two teams met for the 22nd time in 23 tournaments in the gold medal game – and the action between the two teams delivered. 

Among those scoring for the U.S. were Megan Keller, Alex Carpenter, Hilary Knight, Laila Edwards and Caroline Harvey. Julia Gosling, Emily Clark and Erin Ambrose had the other three goals for Canada, giving them their 13th World title after falling to the U.S. in last year’s title game in Toronto. 

This year’s game was held in New York – giving Americans payback on their own soil in the second-highest scoring final between the two teams. The U.S. won a world championship 7-5 in 2015. 

"Oh man, that feels good to win it on U.S. soil," Canada goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens said after the game. "We owed it to them and owed it to ourselves to win that one."

Canada also denied Knight a record 10th World Championship win, although she did become the most decorated player in women’s world championship history with 14 medals. After the game, Poulin gave Knight a hug on the ice. 

"We just said 'that was unbelievable,'" Poulin said.

U.S. coach John Wroblewski echoed the sentiment that it was an outstanding game after being asked about ending the game on a power-play after leaving too many players on the ice. 

"Instead of talking about the isolated events of tonight's game, I think that normally that's an interesting storyline,” he said. “But I think the entity of an amazing 6-5 game is an amazing hockey game that took place."

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

One former player contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

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