After facing criticism over inequities between the collegiate softball and baseball tournaments, the NCAA said in a statement to ESPN on Wednesday that the softball committee is "soliciting feedback" on scheduling adjustments to the Women's College World Series and reviewing the overall WCWS experience for student-athletes.
During the recently completed WCWS in Oklahoma City, Florida State and Oklahoma State played an elimination game that ended at 2:18 a.m. local time, thanks in large part to the event's tightly packed-in schedule. The softball tournament does not have any off days between games and operates on a more compact schedule than the College World Series for the men, set to begin Saturday in Omaha, Nebraska.
After the teams played well into the night, coaches decried the schedule. Several coaches, including Florida State's Lonni Alameda, said during the WCWS that they would like to see more days added to the schedule to avoid the same late-night situation happening in the future. Florida State players did not get to sleep until 4 a.m., and they had to play in another elimination game later that day.
The Seminoles ultimately advanced to the championship series against Oklahoma and took it to three games. Alameda said that by Game 3, her players were gassed, adding the late-night game played a role.
There also have been complaints about inequities with stadium amenities, including locker rooms and batting cages.
USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium, home to the WCWS in Oklahoma City, was recently refurbished and expanded to 13,000 seats.
"The NCAA is proud to call USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium home for the Women's College World Series," said Joni Comstock, NCAA senior vice president of championships, in a statement to ESPN. "USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium is the largest softball-specific venue in the United States and drew a single-session record crowd of 12,370 fans on June 6. The recent facility improvements are the latest in a long line of renovations, which includes a new playing surface this year and lighting system, that have taken place over the past decade at the stadium. The venue recently hosted the Women's College World Series for the 30th time since 1990, and it is also the home of the U.S. national softball team.
"The NCAA Division I Softball Committee, which includes active softball coaches and administrators from the membership, oversees the format and scheduling for the Women's College World Series. The committee is actively discussing and soliciting feedback on adjustments to the schedule in Oklahoma City and will continue overall review and advancements to the Women's College World Series to ensure an outstanding student-athlete championship experience."
Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso was vocal in her displeasure with the schedule during the WCWS, which her team ultimately won, and voiced her unhappiness once again in an appearance earlier this week on the ESPN+ show Stephen A's World.
"As much as people enjoy watching us and there's a lot of revenue and a lot of eyes on this championship, we're still not being treated or have the same opportunities, amenities that others do, and it's sad for me," Gasso said. "I'm not one that speaks up, but I'm being brave and trying to stand up more for the sport to say these players and these coaches and these teams deserve more.
"We deserve a better bracket, better timing, we deserve instant replay, we deserve locker rooms, we deserve showers, we deserve batting cages, we have to go find our own cages otherwise our teams are going to stand out in the hot sun taking batting practice in one cage on an open field. That's unheard of. So there's a lot of things we have to do on our own to make it happen, to make the experience better for our athletes, versus it handed to us. It's shameful, it really is, and I'm committed to help this change."