NCAA officials are hoping to head off the gender equity issues that plagued the NCAA women’s basketball tournament last season, and said men’s and women’s committees working more closely together have helped resolve it. problem.
NCAA Women’s Basketball Vice President Lynn Holzman, Women’s Committee Chair Nina King and NCAA Basketball Senior Vice President Dan Gavitt spoke to the media on Friday describing some changes in place for future tournaments.
They addressed the expansion of the women’s field to 68 teams, the March Madness slogan and logo – previously reserved for the men’s tournament – being used for women, and greater uniformity between tournaments in terms of signage, giveaways student-athletes and amenities at tournament sites.
The disparities between the men’s event in Indianapolis and the women’s event in San Antonio last year caught the public eye and prompted the NCAA to commission a gender equity report on all of its championships. Law firm Kaplan Hecker & Fink released the basketball portion of the report in August, and NCAA officials said it helped them navigate the current changes.
“It was painful,” King, who is Duke’s athletic director, said of last year’s revelations about the NCAA’s shortcomings in gender equity. “But a huge opportunity. Success [will mean] an equitable experience for male and female student-athletes participating in this championship. So we’re really excited about these improvements and how they’re going. »
Having more synergy between the men’s and women’s basketball committees has helped.
“For some reason, the two committees kind of operated independently,” Gavitt said. “That was long before Lynn and I were in the NCAA. [This] is one of the really powerful recommendations of the gender equity report, and I think it paid off a lot. You pay a lot more attention to how these championships are run and how to achieve fairness in decision-making.”
However, the NCAA announced on February 18 that it would not follow the Kaplan report’s recommendation to consider having the men’s and women’s Final Fours in the same city at the same time for now.
“We talked to female basketball coaches, female student-athletes, governance groups,” King said. “We really thought we wanted to see how these upcoming improvements were going to impact the growth of the game and the championship. We didn’t think we wanted to implement a change to the Final Four format at this point.”
The Women’s Final Four will be held in Minneapolis this season, Dallas in 2023, Cleveland in 2024, Tampa in 2025, and Phoenix in 2026. This season’s regionals will be held in Greensboro, North Carolina; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Spokane, Washington; and Wichita, Kansas. Next season, the NCAA will move to two regions for women instead of four, and those will be Greenville, South Carolina and Seattle.
“Part of the committee’s goal when it made this decision a few years ago,” Holzman said of the two-region system, “was that one of the goals was to see an increase in attendance .”
The NCAA was also asked about the broadcast rights to the women’s tournament, held by ESPN. These were sold in a bundle with 23 other NCAA championships to ESPN for $500 million in a deal announced in December 2011 and ending in August 2024.
“We have already begun strategic planning internally on how to approach this opportunity with these negotiations,” Gavitt said. “It was emphasized in the [Kaplan] point out that these rights are probably undervalued…and that the agreement is 10 years old. Fortunately, the media market has been very robust over the past decade.
“We’re certainly optimistic and hopeful that we’ll see much higher media rights fees. And most likely taking the aggregate package of all leagues and looking to sell those rights maybe independent of other leagues, basketball Division I Women’s Championship tops this list. But we haven’t made any final decisions yet as we have time to plan. ESPN has been an amazing partner and are very much looking forward to continuing to work with us. We’ll see. so how will it be.