NCAA Expands Field for 2022 Women’s Basketball Tournament
March Madness will now feature 68 teams in both men's and women's basketball tournaments.
- Beginning with the 2022 tournament, the women's field will expand from 64 to 68 teams.
- The expansion is the latest move by the NCAA to correct gender disparities in college basketball.
- The NCAA will use March Madness branding for both men's and women's tournaments.
The NCAA will expand its Division I Women's Basketball Championship bracket from 64 to 68 teams as it continues to respond to a report highlighting broad gender disparities in college basketball.
"This immediate expansion of the women's basketball championship reinforces the fact that leaders within Division I are committed to strengthening aspects of the women's basketball championship that directly impact student-athletes," Shane Lyons said in an NCAA news release. Lyons is chair of the NCAA's Division I Council and the athletics director at West Virginia University.
The NCAA's treatment of women's basketball teams during the 2021 championship tournament was roundly criticized, leading the nonprofit to hire an independent law firm to conduct a two-phased gender equity review of all its championships.
The first report by Kaplan Hecker & Fink was released last August and focused solely on the men's and women's basketball championships. It found that the NCAA failed to meet its stated commitment to "diversity, inclusion and gender equity among its student-athletes, coaches and administrators."
"This immediate expansion of the women's basketball championship reinforces the fact that leaders within Division I are committed to strengthening aspects of the women's basketball championship that directly impact student-athletes."
— Shane Lyons, NCAA Division I Council Chair
The root cause, the report said, was the belief the women's basketball tournament would never be a revenue producer like the men's basketball tournament. The men's tournament is the organization's primary revenue producer, generating nearly $1 billion in revenue, according to the report. In 2019, the budget for the men's tournament was more than double that for women.
"While there is near universal support for treating student-athletes equitably, there unfortunately is also deep distrust in the NCAA's willingness and ability to make the necessary changes to achieve that goal," the report stated. "We believe, however, that now is the time. Our investigation has revealed broad consensus within the NCAA ... that it is time for change."
The expanded women's tournament was supported by both the Division I Women's Basketball Committee and the Division I Women's Basketball Oversight Committee.
"The expanded bracket and championship opportunities for Division I women's basketball student-athletes are paramount."
— Lisa Campos, NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Oversight Committee Chair
"The expanded bracket and championship opportunities for Division I women's basketball student-athletes are paramount," said Lisa Campos in the NCAA's news release. Campos is the chair of the Division I Women's Basketball Oversight Committee and director of athletics at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
The expansion means that both the women's and men's basketball tournaments will each have 68 teams. The men's tournament had expanded to 68 teams in 2011. In September, the NCAA announced that both tournaments will be marketed under the same March Madness brand, which had previously been limited to just the men's teams.
The 68 teams participating in the 2022 women's championship will be revealed on Sunday, March 13, as part of the ESPN selection show. The last time the women's bracket was announced on a Sunday was in 2005. The women's selection show had been held on Monday and now will be on the same day that the men's bracket is announced.