When the NCAA conducted their recently completed basketball championship tournaments in a bubble-like situation akin to that used by the NBA for their 2020 playoffs, it was decided that the men would gather in Indianapolis and the women would be in San Antonio. The distance between those two cities is about 1,200 miles, but as we discovered, the initial treatment of the athletes was light-years apart.
The men's teams had lavish accommodations and access to state-of-the-art weight rooms and training facilities. Photos posted online showed that the women had the equivalent of a medicine ball and a jump rope. After the outrageous photos hit social media, the NCAA scrambled to provide upgrades. But the damage had been done and the “upgrades” fell far short of the mark that is both mandated by law and expected by women and men in the 21st Century.
It has been almost a half-century since Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 (now officially known as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act after the U.S. representative who helped write it and guided it through Congress) became national law. It reads:
“No person in the United States shall, based on sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
While it covers lots of areas in education, it is most often invoked in providing equal opportunities to girls and women as are enjoyed by boys and men. There almost certainly wouldn’t be sports for girls in high school and for women in college without Title IX.
Yet, nearly five decades after Title IX was signed into law by President Richard Nixon (yes, Richard Nixon, bless his crooked heart), there are still people who try to sidestep it, tweak it, and/or outright ignore it.
The NCAA would probably like fans and the media to just chalk up the glaring basketball disparities to the difficulty of pandemic-era logistics. We probably would be able to give them the benefit of the doubt were it not for the fact that a similar situation has been going on for more than a quarter-century, with no official sense of urgency to rectify matters being exhibited by those in power.
As we head into May, both the University of Arizona women’s softball team and the men’s baseball team are not only in line to make their respective NCAA tournaments, both should be selected to host the regionals, giving them a huge leg up toward reaching the College World Series. Both programs boast multiple national championships.
However, should both teams get back to the Promised Land, it will be a decidedly different experience for the coaches and players. While basketball and other sports generally move their championship sites around from year to year, those for baseball and softball are fixed. The baseball College World Series is in Omaha, while the softball championship is held in Oklahoma City. These two cities are only about 450 miles apart, but, again, the difference in amenities is shocking.
From 1950-2010, the men played in Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha. It was a nice venue, but then the city of Omaha built shiny new TD Ameritrade Stadium in the heart of downtown, close to the best hotels and the best nightlife. The stadium has everything the players and coaches could want.
Meanwhile, the women play at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium. Back in the years when the UA was winning its eight national championships (between 1991 and 2007), there were no locker rooms at the stadium. Players had to get dressed at the hotel or even on the bus. There were also no dugout bathrooms. Players had to run along the sidelines and use the same bathrooms as the fans.
After coaches and players complained, the NCAA’s solution the next year was to provide Port-a-Potties next to the dugouts. Players were urged to use the facilities before or after the games so as to avoid coming out of a Port-a-Potty on national TV. (Dressing rooms and dugout bathrooms were finally installed in 2014, but they’re still waiting for decent batting cages.)
The women’s stadium was finally expanded from 9,000 seats to 13,000 last year, while the men’s stadium seats at least 24,000.
And then there’s the TV tail wagging the tournament dog. The men’s tournament is spread out over 12 days, including a day off for “free massages.” No, really! The women’s tournament is scrunched into seven days with weather and other factors often causing teams to play two games within a few hours of each other. (The two series draw almost identical TV ratings numbers.)
We’re coming up on the 50th Anniversary of Title IX. Perhaps it’s time for everyone to start living up to its ideals.
EXTRA POINTS: The Northwest will be well-represented in the upcoming State tennis championships. The Arizona Interscholastic Association holds separate championships for teams as well as for individual singles and doubles competitions. (It should also be noted that, unlike most other sports that are broken into six distinct classes based on enrollment, tennis has only three divisions, making it roughly twice as difficult to make it to state.)
Canyon Del Oro’s girls’ team had a spectacular regular season. The Dorado squad opened team competition yesterday at home against Canyon View. And five of the six players on the squad will be competing for individual titles starting on Friday. Tiffany Luu is the sixth-seeded player in the 32-person singles competition, while the doubles teams of Bridget Farrell/Madeline Fay and Sal Thompson/Micaela Wu will be vying for the doubles crown.
Maya Merchant of Marana Mountain View is in the singles draw, while her teammates Annabelle Gute and Courage Davidson made the doubles cut.
In Division I girls, the doubles team of Tatum Boyack and Hailey Oldham will represent Marana, as will Jolee Esplin in singles.
Pusch Ridge Christian has the Number Four-seeded team in the D-III team playoffs and will also be sending the doubles teams of Lyndsey Anthony/Alison Grammond and Ashley Drake/Madi Van Holsbeke. Emily Johnsboen will play singles for PR.
On the boys’ side, Ironwood Ridge comes in at No. 12 in the team bracket. Jacob Goldman will be playing singles and the team of Nick Feltes and Ryan Haymore will be in the doubles.
Owen Bakken will be playing singles for CDO, while in doubles the Dorados will be represented by Peter Pisciotta and Chase Lindsey. Marana will send the doubles team of Aaron Barton and William Parry to the D-I tournament, while Pusch Ridge will have Grant Burk in singles and the team of Andrew Maxfield and Jake Sterling in doubles.
The two-day singles and doubles competitions will all be held in the Phoenix area beginning on Friday, April 30.