In her intro press conference of the 2021-2022 season, Michigan State Head Coach Suzy Merchant took time to speak about gender equity in women's sports.
When asked how the new name, image and likeness rules were affecting her squad, Merchant took the time to address what was a bigger issue in her eyes.
"I think our subject has been a little bit more about the gender equity piece within the sport, and what can we do," Merchant said. "I think we have to do a better job of celebrating women and telling our stories. If people don't know about some of their stories and some of their successes, it's hard for people to kind of buy into that and sponsor or donate or support them in that way.”
That issue was brought up just days later when the NCAA announced it would finally be using the March Madness trademark with women's basketball, rather than just limiting it to the men's side.
Standing alongside the basketball team last season when the NCAA women's tournament went viral for having much less equipment than the men in addition to the controversy above, then Assistant President and Associate athletic Director, now Michigan State's Athletic Director Alan Haller has made it an obligation to show his support to the team.
“Many people don't know this, but he got on a plane and flew (down to the tournament)," Merchant said. "He was the only administrator there watching our team play, I think, from Michigan State at the time ... He didn't really have to do that, he just felt compelled to do it."
Commissioner of the Big Ten Conference Kevin Warren also made it his mission to show compassion to the athletes.
"He was very adamant, very passionate and very driven about women's basketball," Merchant said. "We had a record seven women's basketball teams in the NCAA tournament last year. There's some really great players, I think 70% of the first all-conference players are coming back. He feels like they've maybe missed an opportunity to help, and he wants that to be changed. So he's hired a full-time person to oversee and director of an administrator or executive director over women's basketball for the entire Big Ten."
With the upcoming season around the corner, this year’s games will differ from the previous year. The first exhibition game will be on Sunday, Oct. 31st, 2021, where they will be facing Ferris State University.
The Spartans will be bringing an experienced and talented squad to the court this fall as they look to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament and reach for a Big Ten title as well.
With athletics at MSU reaching a new high with the football team's success, one can hope it will translate to the court for the team.
"To see all the fans excited and thrilled just to be in Spartan Stadium has been fun. So I want to just help with that and continue to carry that forward with basketball," said Merchant. "Hopefully, the vision and mission for women's sports here at Michigan State to continue to excel."
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