Nebraska coaches take aim at NCAA

Published: Apr. 19, 2021 at 10:40 PM CDT
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It’s been no secret that the NCAA has struggled just as much as anybody with the pandemic. From reducing tournament fields to flat out eliminating postseasons for teams like UNK volleyball, nobody probably wants a mulligan more than the governing body of college sports.

But for the state of Nebraska, the NCAA missteps will likely have long-lasting impacts.

“The NCAA is under a lot of fire right now, especially with women’s sports,” said Nebraska Volleyball Coach John Cook. “They’re going to pay a big price I think.”

It all started back in March, when a women’s basketball player snapped a photo of a weight room provided to them for the Division I women’s basketball tournament. It amounted to a dumbbell rack and a few yoga mats. In comparison, the men’s basketball teams had a full-fledged weight room with all the expected amenities.

After the photo went viral, the NCAA followed with a quick about-face.

“We fell short this year in what we were doing to prepare in the last 60 days,” said Lynn Holzman, the VP of Women’s Basketball for the NCAA.

They fell well short. The general public saw the issues at the Division I level, but the UNK women’s basketball team made it to the Sweet 16 in D-II, and coach Carrie Eighmey saw the set-up for the Elite Eight. She said it fell woefully short for the women.

The men’s D-II tournament was furnished an arena for their Elite Eight and eventual championship games. However, the women played their Elite Eight games inside a ballroom in Columbus, Ohio and were told they could only bring in 36 total fans per team.

“If you look at those two scenarios, it’s two completely different situations that really don’t have anything to do with revenue or money, or shouldn’t have to do with those things,” Eighmey said.

Prior to the D-I volleyball tournament in Omaha, Nebraska Coach John Cook didn’t stay quiet either.

“Basketball didn’t cut back,” Cook said. “Why are we cutting back? Football didn’t cut back, why are we cutting back?”

This criticism stinging even more for UNK Volleyball Coach Rick Squiers, who didn’t get a chance to coach his team back to a national championship after finishing runner-up in 2019. However, he says he gets where Cook is coming from.

“I mean, I think he’s got a beef too, so I don’t want to take that away from him,” Squiers said. “I think they should have 64 teams, and I think we should have 64 teams.”

When asked what the root of the problem was, Squiers said matter of factly that those at the NCAA headquarters don’t know what it’s like day in and day out on college campuses nationwide. So, how’s it get fixed?

“Somehow, if they could become just a little bit more involved in the day-to-day routines of some of the student athletes,” Squiers said. “I know they try to get some input through the SAC Committee, but just don’t think it’s efficient enough.”

Squiers went on to say that he more than understands right now that it’s about addressing the big picture for the NCAA, but unfortunately for Divisions II and III, it likely means they’ll continue to be put on the back-burner.

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