NCAA ponders tweaks to women’s tournament over inequities

NCAA Tournament
The NCAA Tournament is looking to revamp its women’s tournament to ensure participants are given the same resources as the men’s tournament.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

After controversy arose this spring over apparent inequities between the NCAA men’s and women’s Division I tournaments, the women’s basketball oversight committee revealed that it is mulling major changes to address rebranding and “participation opportunities” in the women’s game.

In a press release Tuesday, the NCAA said the committee has met repeatedly since the season ended in early April amid an ongoing gender equity review by Kaplan, Hecker & Fink LLP into how the facilities at the women’s tournament lagged far behind the amenities at the men’s tournament.

Per the release, the committee is examining two areas of focus. The committee intends to coordinate with men’s and women’s entities involved about sharing the branding and rights to the phrase “March Madness.” Previously it has been used only to refer to the men’s tournament.

In addition, the NCAA will aim to find ways to match the structures of the two tournaments, possibly tinkering with the women’s Final Four schedule and perhaps expanding the women’s version to match the 68-team format used by the men.

“The oversight committee is dedicated to moving quickly to bring positive changes to the sport of women’s basketball,” said Lisa Campos, University of Texas-San Antonio athletics director and chair of the women’s basketball oversight committee. “We are having these exploratory discussions now on items that are of high interest to members and women’s basketball stakeholders, with the expectation that we will be able to lay a foundation to take the next appropriate steps once the gender equity review is completed.”

A public outcry arose months ago after social media posts from the women’s NCAA Tournament “bubble” in San Antonio showed that the weight room was far inferior to that at the men’s NCAA Tournament “bubble” in Indianapolis. In addition, women’s tourney participants pointed out that the men had superior COVID-19 testing, food availability, and swag bags.