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Report Shows Massive Gender Inequity in NCAA Basketball, Recommends Combined Final Four

Sports Illustrated logo Sports Illustrated 8/3/2021 Joseph Salvador
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The NCAA's external review on gender equity highlights the systemic inequity between men's and women's athletics

The NCAA's external review on gender equity was released on Tuesday, highlighting staggering systemic inequity between men's and women's athletics—specifically in Division I basketball. 

Among other recommendations, the report says the NCAA should combine the women's and men's Finals Four into a single weekend at the same venue. 

Sources told Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger that the review would show "damning, clear disparities in treatment between men and women athletes," before the release.

"The primary reason, we believe, is that the gender inequities at the NCAA—and specifically within the NCAA Division I basketball championships—stem from the structure and systems of the NCAA itself, which are designed to maximize the value of and support to the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship as the primary source of funding for the NCAA and its membership," the report reads. 

"The NCAA’s broadcast agreements, corporate sponsorship contracts, distribution of revenue, organizational structure, and culture all prioritize Division I men’s basketball over everything else in ways that create, normalize, and perpetuate gender inequities."

The report went on to say that the NCAA has nothing in place to address the inequities and that its current structure limits the growth of women's sports, perpetuating the narrative that women’s basketball is a “money loser." 

The review, conducted by Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, also estimates that the annual broadcast rights for women’s basketball will be worth between $81 and $112 million in 2025. This figure is significantly more than what ESPN is currently paying for those rights, according to the report. 

The report recommends addressing these inequities for both moral and financial reasons. 

"Our investigation has revealed broad consensus within the NCAA—from the operational staff to the most senior leadership, from the committees responsible for planning and overseeing basketball championships to the Board of Governors—that it is time for change," the report reads. "The NCAA has already started having important conversations around several of the gender equity issues discussed in this report."

The NCAA faced backlash earlier this year for the wide disparity between the men's and women's weight rooms at their respective NCAA basketball tournaments. The NCAA quickly made adjustments and improved the women's facility, but the incident spotlighted the inequity between men's and women's college athletics.

Under pressure, the NCAA hired a law firm to evaluate and assess its policies and practices as it relates to gender equity in the form of an internal review

The investigation was requested in March by the the NCAA's Committee on Women's Athletics in the form of a letter that was addressed to NCAA president Mark Emmert. 

In July, three Democratic U.S. House members expressed their concerns over the gender disparities at the NCAA tournaments and requested corresponding documents to championship events. The requested documents included tournament site details, complaints filed by participating teams, budgets for men’s and women’s events and any reviews of gender disparities at such events. 

"In all of these areas and more, the experience of the women’s tournament participants was markedly different from and inferior to that of the men’s tournament participants," the report read

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