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(INDIANAPOLIS) — Five days into the all-Indiana men’s basketball tournament, the NCAA’s

president says it’s working “spectacularly,” while conceding the organization “dropped the ball” at

the women’s tourney in Texas.

Mark Emmert says after canceling last year, the NCAA wanted to do anything possible to allow

this year’s tourney to be played. The men’s basketball tournament brings in 80% of the NCAA’s revenue, but Emmert told the Economic Club of Indiana the organization also wanted to

make sure players didn’t miss a second straight opportunity to play on college basketball’s

biggest stage. He recalls telephoning the University of Dayton last year, when the Flyers were

ranked third in the country and likely to earn their first-ever top seed in the tournament, to break

the news the tournament wouldn’t happen.

Emmert says it was clear holding the 2021 tournament would mean playing in fewer locations,

and says while the NCAA considered other cities, the focus turned quickly to Indianapolis. Not

only is Indy the NCAA’s home base, it was already scheduled to host this year’s Final Four. And

Emmert says the NCAA knew going in that Indy would have the facilities and experience to pull

off the tournament. He says Indiana’s organizers approach the tournament with an eye

to putting egos aside to make everything work smoothly, something he says isn’t always true of other venues.

COVID infections forced Virginia Commonwealth out of the tournament before it ever played a

game, but Mark Emmert says that’s not a failure, but a sign of people doing their jobs. He says

it’s been “fun to watch” the preparation for the tournament come together, and says given that

games are being played after last year’s health departments and Indiana’s sports and tourism

offices have delivered on assurances they could conduct the tournament safely.

The remainder of the tourney will be played in Indianapolis, after stretching to Bloomington and

West Lafayette for the “First Four” and some first-round matchups.

While the men’s tournament has gone relatively smoothly, Emmert concedes the same hasn’t

been true with the women’s tournament. Players and coaches have pointed out disparities in

everything from pregame meals to COVID testing, and Oregon forward Sedona Prince’s video of a

sparsely equipped weight room went viral.

Emmert maintains some of those issues are more “communications failures” than actual

disparities. He says San Antonio health officials made the decision to use rapid antigen tests, and

insists there’s no medical or health difference with the PCR tests being used in Indy, despite the

antigen tests’ higher rate of false negatives. And he argues the rack of hand weights highlighted by

Prince’s video was an exercise room, not a full weight room.

But Emmert says those are “explanations, not excuses.” He says the NCAA was too slow to

respond to the issues at the women’s tournament, and says he’s concerned the controversy will

pull focus away from the athletes.