The Las Vegas Invitational was a "major miss" for women's college basketball, a top-10 coach said.
The tournament was played in a hotel ballroom and didn't provide teams with towels during games.
One player had to wait 40 minutes for paramedics after falling and hitting her head.
The Las Vegas Invitational was a "major miss" for women's college basketball.
The two-day Thanksgiving weekend tournament featured nine Division I teams — including the undefeated top-10 Indiana Hoosiers — competing on the Las Vegas Strip at The Mirage hotel. But instead of playing under the bright lights of Sin City in the Athletes Unlimited-style setup they were promised, as Big Ten Network's Meghan McKeown reported Sunday, teams arrived to find a shoddy court situated in the corner of a ballroom.
From the chandeliers hanging from the beveled ceiling to the multicolored carpet surrounding the hardwood, the lackluster accommodations were plain to see for any fans that paid to watch the FloHoops broadcasts of the games. And perhaps most disappointingly for those participating in the event, the tournament layout was not remotely conducive to hosting fans; the limited spectators welcomed into the facilities were expected to find the court without any signage and, once they arrived, were seated on folding chairs instead of bleachers.
"This is not what was described to us a far as what the venue was going to look like, what the setup was going to look like," Indiana head coach Teri Moren told ESPN. "What was disappointing was the aesthetics; it's not a fan-friendly environment."
"As women's basketball coaches, we're trying to move our game forward," she added. "It felt like because [this] got so many ticks on social, that we had taken a couple steps backward. We have an obligation to grow our game, and we completely missed on this opportunity because you have a lot of really good teams that are here. I see all these other tournaments going on and footage of that, but this was a major miss."
But the criticism of the tournament went further than mere aesthetics. Organizers — including tournament director Bryce McKey — were clearly ill-prepared to meet the typical standards afforded to NCAA teams, as evidenced by the fact that players were asked to bring hand towels from their hotel rooms to use on the bench during games.
And in at least one instance, the utter lack of preparation became dangerous to those participating in the event. During Saturday's game between the Auburn and Colorado State, Tigers forward Kharyssa Richardson took a hard fall and hit her head on the hardwood.
Several sources reported that the freshman, who was laying on the court, waited more than 40 minutes to receive medical attention. Richardson was not seriously hurt, but the following game was pushed back more than an hour as a result of the incident.
After the disappointing event came to a close, some questioned why McKey was granted authority over a high-profile women's sporting event in the first place. According to a Twitter thread from Underrated Podcast, the former Xavier Musketeers and Maryland Terrapins women's basketball assistant was accused of sexually abusing two players he coached.
McKey was found not guilty of misdemeanor charges in a case brought by one of those players, per a 2016 ESPN story. The Cincinnati Inquirer reported at the time that the judge hearing the case questioned why the accuser did not object more fervently to all of her former coach's advances, then suggested that not doing so was comparable to "an invitation."
Las Vegas Invitational site coordinator Ryan Polk told ESPN the event was "a one-time disaster" and promised not to return to The Mirage for future events. In response via a statement to ESPN's Michele Steele, the hotel insisted that "all decisions about seating, configuration of the venue, and details such as the presence of emergency medical personnel and security were [Polk's] responsibility."
"We will not be working with his company on future events," representatives for The Mirage added.
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