Opinion: March Madness off to problematic start for NCAA at men’s and women’s basketball tournaments

INDIANAPOLIS — At some point on Friday, the college kids playing for free will deliver an amazing basketball game that captures the nation’s attention and many of us will log onto Twitter to type a lot of exclamation points about how great it is that the NCAA Tournament is back after more than 700 days. 

Here in Indianapolis where the NCAA is trying to pull off this tournament in the middle of a pandemic, NCAA president Mark Emmert and company will exhale because – for a moment, anyway – it will change the subject from what a disaster this week has been for the organization’s reputation. 

In the week-long lead-up to the tournament, three dominant storylines have emerged: 

♦ Six referees were sent home because they went out to dinner and one of them tested positive for COVID-19, a break of protocol that was rooted partly in the NCAA’s failure to execute an orderly check-in procedure. 

♦ Several players in the men’s tournament started a social media movement around the hashtag #NotNCAAProperty, slamming the NCAA for its failure so far to implement new rules that would allow college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness. 

♦ Then on Thursday, images emerged from the women’s tournament bubble in San Antonio showing a weight room – if you can call it that – which was really nothing more than a rack of light dumbbells. When compared to the extensive and sophisticated weight room that was set up for the men, it looked like a clear inequity, prompting NCAA vice president for women’s basketball Lynn Holzman to blame lack of space in a statement that acknowledged the problem but wasn’t exactly a mea culpa. 

Other than that, things are going great!

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