All of the disparities at the 2021 NCAA women’s basketball tournament

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Since first publishing this story on Thursday, March 18, more differences between the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments have emerged. This story has been updated to reflect those. 

While the weight room situation at the 2021 NCAA women’s basketball tournament is what caught most people’s attention, it isn’t the only example of how the NCAA has treated the women’s tournament as a sideshow in comparison to the first-class men’s tournament.

Below is a list of the disparities between the 2021 NCAA women’s basketball and men’s basketball tournaments.

NCAA digital media hub and interview transcripts (Monday, March 22):

On Sunday night, reporter Brenna Greene shared a video of the NCAA’s digital media hub, which had over one thousand photos from the men’s tournament, but zero photos of the women’s tournament. On Monday night, the NCAA began adding photos of that day’s games, but no photos of Sunday’s first round games were ever added to the site.

In addition, the NCAA is providing interview transcription services for all post-game coach press conferences at the men’s tournament, but not until the Sweet 16 of the women’s tournament.

If the excuse of “the men generate more revenue” is behind these discrepancies, the NCAA doesn’t understand the simple math: photos and transcripts make it easier to get media coverage… media coverage generates interest… Interest generates viewers… Viewers generate revenue.

If the NCAA wants the women’s tournament to grow, it is in the NCAA’s best interest to help reporters cover it, and yet…

On-court NCAA branding (Sunday, March 21):

As the women’s tournament got underway in Texas on Sunday, it quickly became clear that the women’s venues don’t have the same look as the men’s tournament in Indiana. While every men’s court features March Madness branding – the type of branding that immediately tells viewers they are watching the men’s national championship tournament – the same cannot be said for the women’s tournament venues.

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Four of the five venues being used for the women’s tournament don’t have any logos at center court related to the NCAA tournament. The exception is the Alamodome, which will feature every game starting with the Sweet Sixteen. The Alamodome court features a “Women’s Basketball” logo (the NCAA does not use the term “March Madness” to refer to the women’s tournament).

I compiled a few of the side-by-side court photos here.

Update (March 24): The men don’t get just one special court at each venue. On Wednesday, the NCAA published a timelapse of a men’s court with “March Madness” branding being deconstructed and replaced by court with specific Sweet 16 and Elite 8 branding.

RELATED: NCAA: March Madness branding will be used for women’s tournament

Different COVID tests for the men’s and women’s tournaments (Friday, March 19):

On Friday afternoon, Amanda Christovich with Front Office Sports reported that the men’s and women’s tournaments are using different tests to detect COVID-19. Men’s teams are being tested daily using PCR tests, while women’s teams are getting daily antigen tests. Antigen tests – which are typically much less expensive than PCR tests – are “generally less sensitive,” according to the CDC. Antigen tests are also less likely to detect the virus early in the course of infection.

Food quality and variety (Friday, March 19):

Based on social media posts, players and staff at the women’s tournament are eating pre-packaged meals, while the men’s tournament features full buffets. On Thursday night, Oregon’s Sedona Price posted a food log to TikTok, showing the type of food offered at the women’s tournament.

Weight rooms (Thursday, March 18):

On Thursday, Stanford performance coach Ali Kershner posted side-by-side photos of the weight training facilities available at the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. While the men had access to a full weight room, the women are were making do with dumbbells and yoga mats.

After Kershner’s photos went viral on social media, the NCAA issued a statement, explaining that “limited space” had played a role in the lack of women’s equipment and that the organization is “actively working to enhance existing resources.”

That explanation was quickly debunked by Oregon’s Sedona Price:

Update (Saturday, March 20): On Saturday morning, following further outcry and calls for more equitable facilities, the NCAA released photos of a newly constructed women’s weight room. 

The Final Four logos (Thursday, March 18):

I covered this topic in depth last week, but the NCAA’s choice to omit the word “men’s” from all official branding of the men’s tournament – including the Final Four logo – is important. By referring to “the men’s Final Four” as “the Final Four,” the NCAA is perpetuating the idea that men’s basketball is the norm, while women’s basketball is a sideshow.

The official logos of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Basketball tournaments

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NCAA website (Thursday, March 18):

While the NCAA can’t dictate how other news outlets cover its tournaments, it can control the front page of its own website. As of Thursday night, I had to scroll past 26 stories or videos about the men’s basketball tournament before reaching the first story or video about the women’s tournament.

The hashtags and social handles (Thursday, March 18):

Want to follow NCAA basketball tournament news on Twitter? The handle @MarchMadness is reserved for the men (along with the hashtag #MarchMadness), while women’s basketball content can be found over on @NCAAwbb (with two gendered hashtags: #ncaaW and #WFinalFour). 

Update (Monday, March 22): The Wall Street Journal revealed that – while the trademark for “March Madness” allows it to be used for both the men’s and women’s tournaments, the NCAA made the decision to only use the term for the men’s tournament.

Fan capacity at the NCAA tournaments (Thursday, March 18):

Now, I have a hard time arguing for increasing fan capacity in the middle of a pandemic, especially for a tournament involving unpaid athletes, but that doesn’t mean I’m not perplexed by the fact that the men’s tournament in Indiana allows fans at 25 percent capacity while the women’s tournament in Texas is capped at 17 percent.

Moving on…

The NCAA basketball swag bags (Thursday, March 18):

Based on photos posted to social media, the swag bags provided to the men’s and women’s players were far from equitable. To be clear: what’s important here isn’t the swag bag. It’s what the swag bag represents.

(And even I have to laugh at the fact that the men were given a 500-piece puzzle, while the women’s puzzle includes just 150 pieces.)

While discrepancies like these are not new in women’s sports – remember when the 2015 Women’s World Cup was played on artificial turf? – the juxtaposition that college basketball provides is important. Because the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments are put on by the same organization, follow the same format, and take place at the same time, there is a direct comparison between the two events.

If more examples emerge, I’ll continue updating this page.

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Kaillie Humphries elevates another fresh U.S. face to podium status in two-woman bobsled World Cup

Kaillie Humphries of USA, Kaysha Love of USA in action at the 2 women's bobsleigh during Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
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PARK CITY, UTAH – Kaillie Humphries extended her podium streak on Saturday at the IBSF World Cup, where she and U.S. push athlete Jasmine Jones finished third in the two-woman bobsled.

The third-place finish in Park City marked the sixth podium for Humphries at the Park City track, which hosted the 2002 Olympics, and was Jones’ career-first World Cup podium in just her second World Cup start.

“This is our first race together, so really excited about that,” said the 37-year-old Humphries, considered the greatest female driver in history with three Olympic gold medals (2010, 2014 and 2022) and five world championships titles. She earned her 29th career World Cup win on Friday in Park City in the women’s monobob.

“Definitely a work in progress. … The runs weren’t perfect, but I’m really happy with our starts, happy with our drives minus a few little mistakes. It’s a good starting point, and we’ll look to grow from here.”

Humphries and Jones finished with a combined, two-run time of 1:37.69, 0.32 behind winners Kim Kalicki and brakewoman Leonie Fiebig of Germany at 1:37.37. Fellow Germans Laura Nolte and Lena Neunecker were second at 0.23 back.

Kalicki and Fiebig broke a 16-year-old track record with their first run, laying down a time of 48.60 seconds and besting the time set by Americans Shauna Rohbock and Valerie Fleming – the 2006 Olympic silver medalists – in December 2006 (48.73). It also marked the second straight victory for Kalicki, who’s won five career World Cup titles including last week’s two-woman bobsled race in Whistler, Canada.

“I was hoping Kaillie would get [the record],” said Rohbock, who is now a U.S. team coach and was on hand to see her record fall. “That first run there, she had that little skid in the bottom, so that didn’t help, but Kailee’s always putting up a great performance. And Jasmine, another great brakewoman, so we’re really lucky that we have that depth.”

For Team USA, it marked the second straight week that a fresh face earned her first podium finish while competing with Humphries. Last week in Whistler, push athlete Emily Renna and Humphries placed third in Renna’s first-ever World Cup appearance.

MORE IBSF WORLD CUP COVERAGE: Kelly Curtis notches career-best finish with top five at Park City skeleton World Cup

“Being able to race with her was really special,” said the 29-year-old Renna, who was a college track athlete at University of Rhode Island. “It’s really nice to be around seasoned veterans. It definitely makes you feel better in the back sled with you when you’ve got a good pilot who knows the track.”

Renna finished in eighth place in Park City with 12-year U.S. team veteran and pilot Nicole Vogt (1:39.04). Vogt partnered with Jones in her first World Cup last week where they finished seventh in Whistler, 1.33 seconds behind winners Kalicki and German teammate Anabel Galander.

“To have an opportunity to be with Kaillie in my World Cup debut – it’s exciting,” said the 26-year-old Jones, who was a collegiate track and field athlete at Eastern Michigan. “I just feel like I have so much more in the tank to give, and I’m just hungry for it.”

Jones is particularly gratified with her performance after returning full-time to bobsled less than 18 months ago following the birth of her daughter, Jade Quinn Jones, in February 2021. The Greensburg, Pa., native returned to training just five months postpartum, having sat out the 2020-21 season. She competed on the North American Cup last year, finishing the season with a win (the third NA Cup title of her career) and a third place in Lake Placid.

“I’m thankful,” said Jones. “Opportunity is the main thing, and I just feel blessed to have my first World Cup podium. I’m screaming on the inside. I may not show it, but I am jumping for joy because I’m just that excited and happy to have this accomplishment.”

She admits, however, it’s not always easy to compete balance a full-time competitive career with being a mom.

“Sometimes it’s a struggle being away from my daughter,” said Jones, whose mom takes care of Jade while she travels. “I try to get my facetimes in every night and just know that when I’m pushing, I’m doing it for her. Hopefully sometime in the future I’ll have her around on the sidelines cheering me on, and that’s my main motivation – that this is for her.”

The BMW IBSF World Cup continues its North American swing Dec. 16-18 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Kaillie Humphries faces IVF journey head on — and collects monobob World Cup win along the way

Gold medallist Kaillie Humphries of Team United States celebrates during the Women's Monobob.
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PARK CITY, UTAH — Kaillie Humphries knew the quest to start a family would impact her 2022-23 season, but it’s certainly not slowing down Team USA’s reigning monobob Olympic gold medalist, who captured her first World Cup title in the discipline on Friday.

The 37-year-old Humphries, considered the greatest female driver in history with three Olympic golds (2010, 2014 and 2022) and five world championships, earned her 29th career World Cup win and her third victory on the Park City track, where she won the two-woman bobsled competitions in 2012 and 2016. Competing in Utah – as well as North American World Cup stops in Whistler last week and in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Dec. 17-18 – is one of the reasons that Humphries pushed pause on her journey to motherhood.

“I’m excited,” Humphries said following the win, marking her second straight podium in monobob following a third-place finish last week in Whistler. “I was excited for this year before it started. It’s part and parcel of why my husband and I delayed the IVF process and starting a family this season. To be able to be back in North America and have the first half of the season here – it’s been a long time since we’ve had that, so I wanted to be able to compete and it feels awesome.”

That’s not to say the leadup to this season has been without its share of hiccups. In fact, Humphries admits that following the Beijing Olympics, she had hoped to get pregnant immediately, but she and husband Travis Armbruster had to pivot when a diagnosis of stage 4 endometriosis made it clear that in vitro fertilization would be the best path for pregnancy.

“Right after the Olympics, I was like, ‘We’re going to get pregnant; it’s gonna be all good,’” she said. “I thought, my body has always performed, and it wasn’t going to be an issue. Fast forward to I find out we have to do IVF. We do the first egg retrieval, and it doesn’t go as well as I had hoped — which anybody that’s done this process knows, you can’t control any aspect of it. And so having to do a second round of egg retrieval, …it pushed everything back.”

What’s more, it brought Humphries’ training to a standstill at times, when she would have to limit all physical activity during the three-week period surrounding the egg-retrieval process.

“It impacted my training coming into this year a lot,” she says, “but I also think it definitely reset my hormones, which turns out I needed. I don’t think was a bad thing. I knew coming into this year, I wasn’t going to be in the same shape as I have been in the past, and I had to make peace with that. I know that each and every race I’m racing myself into shape, and each race is a preparation for January’s World Championships.”

Humphries also chose to share her IVF journey publicly, and she’s documented every step of the way, believing that her story makes it less scary not just for her but also for other women and female athletes who might be facing the same thing.

MORE IBSF WORLD CUP: Kelly Curtis notches career-best finish with top five at Park City skeleton World Cup

“My husband and I weren’t sure that we wanted to share it at first,” she admits. “But I felt it was important just to showcase this. I have nothing to hide. And as much as there are parts of me certain days when I think, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ At the end of the day, I know I’m not alone in this.

“It’s important, I do have a voice, and I want other people to know, as an Olympic gold medalist, if it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody. Infertility exists in the female body, and it’s important that I talk about it in my journey and hopefully that’s inspired other people.”

She says she’s received an outpouring of support, which has been particularly gratifying as she continues to put a painful breakup with Team Canada in the rearview mirror. Humphries, who was born in Calgary, competed for Canada for 16 years, winning three Olympic medals including a bronze in Pyeongchang in 2018. But the relationship came to an abrupt end later just five months after the 2018 Games, after Humphries alleged emotional and mental harassment by a former coach.

Winning a gold medal in Beijing just two months after her U.S. citizenship was finalized proved to be turning point for Humphries, who commemorated the milestone with two new tattoos. She first added the date of her win – Feb. 14, 2022 – to the back of her left hand and a larger rose and skull illustration to the back of her right knee and calf, all of which commemorate her triumph over that darker period.

“The skull represents a rebirth and a growth, overcoming challenges and/or obstacles and turning something negative into something positive,” explains Humphries, who says she chose the rose because it’s the national flower of the U.S. as well as a symbol of love won or lost. She notes that she has “an actual Olympic one” planned for August 2024, which is when her favorite tattoo artist is next available.

Humphries has also found the silver lining in her IVF journey, as the competition season has been a welcome break from some of the self-imposed pressure.

“By pushing pause for four or five months and competing, it allowed me mentally to know that we can go into all of next summer and all winter focusing on just doing the actual embryo transfers and having a good pregnancy,” she says. “I don’t feel stressed to try and get pregnant right away. I felt like I was becoming competitive with myself, wondering why isn’t this working? Why can’t I do this? I tried to control too many things, and I started to get really frustrated. Mentally, it was hard. So, by pushing pause, going back to what I know — which is the sport, which is what I love – it’s allowed me to control a little bit of my future.”

Humphries’ season continues Saturday as the IBSF World Cup from Park City concludes with the two-woman bobsleigh.