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NCAA Nine of 23 recommendations to create comparable NCAA tournaments for men’s and women’s basketball players have been properly addressed, according to a progress report released Wednesday.
The biggest governing body in college sports has hired a third party to evaluate its response to a scathing report released almost a year ago that criticized gender disparities in tournaments.
Among the most notable changes noted in the progress report were “March Madness” branding and increased cross-promotion of both tournaments in 2022, and adding four teams to the women’s tournament to create a “First Four” event to bring it in line with the structure of the men’s tournament.
The report states that the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball committees jointly rejected a recommendation to host a simultaneous “Final Four” in the same city, and the NCAA leadership decided not to change the administrative structure of the Division I basketball. This means that the vice president of women’s basketball Lynn Holtzman continues to report to Senior Vice President of Basketball Dan Gawitt.
An outside firm was hired to conduct the assessment, and that the NCAA has granted the firm’s request not to be named in accordance with company policy, NCAA deputy director of communications Megan Durham told The Associated Press in an email.
“The results of this evaluation illustrate our commitment to advancing gender equality in the NCAA Championships. Thanks to a collaborative spirit, significant progress has been made in the past year,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert. “We have talked about this before: our work is not yet complete. Gender equality must remain a priority for university sports leaders and we look forward to continuing to support these efforts going forward.”
The initial report, published in August, was prepared by Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, which was hired after the NCAA failed to provide similar amenities to teams in the 2021 Men’s and Women’s Division I tournaments.
Tournaments were held in pandemic bubbles, and players blew up social media with complaints that showed differences between men’s and women’s weight machines, food, rest areas and gifts, prompting apologies from NCAA executives.
Kaplan’s report stated that the NCAA failed to uphold its commitment to gender equality by favoring the men’s cash cow tournament “above all else” and made recommendations that the NCAA accepted or considered.
Issues raised by female players have been resolved, the progress report notes. And in addition to branding improvements, the NCAA has increased the number of full-time employees working on women’s tournaments; improved communication between men’s and women’s basketball committees; launched a program to identify and track areas that should be the same, comparable and different in the men’s and women’s tournament experience; hired a third party to produce an annual report on gender equality initiatives; and made statements on how gender equality issues are or will be addressed.
The report also indicated that the NCAA increased the 2022 women’s tournament spending budget by $6.1 million and that an additional $1 million would be added.
Among the areas under development are: the recruitment of a staff member to deal with women and gender equality issues; initiating third-party evaluations of progress on gender equality every five years; focus on new corporate sponsorship of the women’s tournament; using advertising and marketing opportunities that benefit both tournaments; building on increased brand awareness with “March Madness” courts and hoops in the women’s first four, as well as the first and second rounds.
Going forward, the NCAA hopes to secure separate rights to the women’s tournament after existing media and marketing contracts expire in 2024, the report says, as well as hiring a senior vice president of revenue, focusing on both tournaments and generating revenue from the women’s tournaments. , the distribution plan is more in line with the men’s tournament.
NCAA earnings topped $1 billion in the year before the pandemic, and nearly $900 million of that was tied to a media rights deal with CBS and Turner for the men’s tournament.
The women’s tournament is part of a package with more than two dozen other NCAA championships that ESPN owns and pays about $34 million a year during 2023-24. But according to an estimate made for Kaplan by a team of sports media and marketing experts, the women’s tournament will cost between $81 million and $112 million annually starting in 2025.