'Time's up gentleman:' Former Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw sounds off on gender inequity
Former Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw took to Twitter Saturday to express her outrage, as well as her general lack of surprise, regarding amenity discrepancies between the men’s and women’s NCAA tournament sites.
“While I appreciate the outrage, the fact that there’s a huge disparity between men’s and women’s sports is hardly breaking news,” McGraw tweeted. “We have been fighting this battle for years and frankly, I’m tired of it.”
Complaints of inequity between the women’s and men’s tournaments — the men are playing in Indiana and the women in San Antonio, Texas — began to trend Thursday when Stanford sports performance coach for women’s basketball Ali Kershner posted a photo of a single stack of weights next to a training table with sanitized yoga mats, comparing it to pictures of massive facilities for the men with stacks of free weights, dumbbells and squat racks.
“These women want and deserve to be given the same opportunities,” Kershner tweeted. “In a year defined by a fight for equality, this is a chance to have a conversation and get better.”
Embarrassed, NCAA officials were quick to offer apologies as NCAA officials scurried to upgrade workout facilities in San Antonio. Other issues that came to light were the quality of gifts and food offered to men’s tournament participants as related to women participants.
McGraw, who is no stranger to standing up for equality in women’s sports, said in her Tweet that she is tired of feeling like the women’s NCAA tournament is treated like the JV to the men.
“The fact that there are inequities in facilities, food, fan attendance, and swag bags is not what bothers me,” she said. “What bothers me is that no one on the NCAA’s leadership team even noticed. While corporations across the country are scrambling to hire women and set up diversity & inclusion teams, the NCAA had an opportunity to highlight how sport can be a place where we don’t just talk about equality we put it on display.”
NCAA Senior Vice President of women’s basketball Lynn Holzman said the original setup was limited because of a lack of available space in San Antonio, with plans to expand once the tournament field shrunk in the later rounds.
“We acknowledge that some of the amenities teams would typically have access to have not been as available inside the controlled environment,” Holtzman said. “... We want to be responsive to the needs of our participating teams, and we are actively working to enhance existing resources at practice courts, including additional weight training equipment.”
Back in 2019 during a Final Four press conference in Tampa, McGraw shined a bright spotlight on gender equity when she was asked about a statement she made about only hiring women assistants for her staff.
McGraw was ready and her impassioned response stretched beyond basketball.
“I’m getting tired of the novelty of ‘the first female governor of this state,’ ‘the first female African-American mayor of this city,’” she said. “When is it going to become the norm instead of the exception?” McGraw wondered. “We don’t have enough female role models. We don’t have enough visible women leaders. We don’t have enough women in power.”
Her comments drew praise on social media from former President Barack Obama, current U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg who was South Bend’s mayor at the time, and former Irish player and WNBA star Skylar Diggins.
McGraw, a hall of fame coach who led Notre Dame to two national championships, retired following the 2019-20 season. Her Tweet Saturday went viral as she explained that women have been battling gender inequity for decades.
“We have accepted our fate for far too long,” she said. “We have taken the crumbs from the table we don’t even have a seat at and we didn’t complain.
“... Well time’s up gentlemen. This generation of women expects more and we won’t stop until we get it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report