NCAA’s March Madness Brand to Include Women in 2022 Basketball Tournament
- The NCAA will use March Madness branding for both men's and women's tournaments.
- The change comes after an independent report criticized the NCAA's diversity commitments.
- The NCAA will also change how the men's and women's tournaments are funded.
March Madness is no longer just for men.
The NCAA announced Wednesday it will use the longstanding marking and branding to promote both the men's and women's 2022 Division I basketball tournaments. In a separate announcement Thursday, the organization said it is also exploring the possibility of holding the Final Fours for both men and women in the same city, possibly as soon as 2027.
The announcements arrive some six months after the NCAA was sharply criticized for its botched handling of the 2021 women's basketball tournament. Back in March, the University of Oregon's Sedona Prince made national news with a Tweet showing inadequate weightlifting equipment provided to the women's teams for their tournament in San Antonio. She compared that to what the NCAA provided to the men's teams for their tournament in Indianapolis.
The Tweet set off a storm of criticism about gender equity in college sports. NCAA President Mark Emmert later acknowledged that the organization had botched its handling of the women's tournament. He also agreed to an external gender equity review of all championships by the Kaplan Hecker & Fink law firm, which released a report in August.
The NCAA has not lived up to its stated commitment to 'diversity, inclusion and gender equity among its student-athletes, coaches and administrators.'
The report not only supported Prince's complaint, it also found differences such as the gift bags provided to the players and the quality of food. The report also made several recommendations to reduce the gender divide that exists between men's and women's sports.
"With respect to women's basketball, the NCAA has not lived up to its stated commitment to 'diversity, inclusion and gender equity among its student-athletes, coaches and administrators,'" the report said.
"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 recommended that the NCAA include the women's tournament as part of the March Madness brand to ensure equal treatment of players and to help grow women's basketball. The next Women's Final Four will be held from April 1-3, 2022 in Minneapolis. While agreeing to add the women's tournament to the March Madness program, the NCAA said they still need to work out the details of how that will be done.
Adding the March Madness trademark to the Division I Women's Basketball Championship will enhance the development and public perception of the sport.
"This is just the start when it comes to improving gender equity in the way the two Division I basketball championships are conducted," Lisa Campos, chair of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Oversight Committee and director of athletics at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said in Wednesday's announcement.
"Adding the March Madness trademark to the Division I Women's Basketball Championship will enhance the development and public perception of the sport," Campos said.
The organization also said it intends to change how the tournaments are funded. Instead of working off budgets from previous years, the NCAA will now start from scratch to determine budget expenses. The goal is to increase equity by making sure any funding differences between the two tournaments are justified.
The NCAA further reported that committees representing both men's and women's basketball will continue to meet regularly to "ensure alignment" between the two championships.
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