Report: NCAA Makes Progress in Gender Equity in College Basketball

The NCAA commissioned the third-party assessment after reports showed disparities in the treatment of men and women college athletes.
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  • Disparities in the NCAA's administration of the men's and women's 2021 college basketball tournament were widely criticized.
  • A fall 2021 report made 25 recommendations for increasing gender equity in college basketball.
  • A progress report released Wednesday found that nine of those recommendations have been adequately addressed.

The NCAA has made progress in addressing gender equity in its championship tournaments for men's and women's basketball, but work still remains to be done, according to a progress report released Wednesday.

The NCAA commissioned the third-party assessment after an October 2021 report sharply criticized the association for disparities in the treatment of men and women college athletes. That report, done by Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, made 25 recommendations for increasing gender equity.

The progress report found that nine of those recommendations have been adequately addressed.

Signs of progress cited in the report include:

Another improvement was a more than 30% increase in the budget for the women's tournament, including $6.1 million in gender-equity enhancements, according to the progress report.

"The findings of this assessment illustrate our commitment to advance gender equity at NCAA championships. Thanks to a collaborative spirit, significant accomplishments were achieved this past year. We have said it before — our work is not finished. Gender equity must remain a priority for leaders throughout college sports and we look forward to continuing to support these efforts moving forward," NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a prepared statement.

The report also listed areas in which progress is being made but not completed. Those areas include:

  • An increase in Title IX staff
  • Implementing gender-equity progress reports every five years
  • The procurement of new corporate sponsors for the women's tournament
  • The pursuit of marketing opportunities that benefit both the men's and women's tournament

Yet to be addressed, according to the progress report, are:

  • The hiring of a chief business officer for the basketball tournaments
  • Organizational structure
  • Gender-equity performance rewards
  • The hosting of both tournaments in the same city
  • The creation of a revenue distribution plan for the women's tournament similar to that of the men's tournament

The company that studied the NCAA and issued the progress report asked that it not be identified, an NCAA official told The Associated Press.

The progress report followed an initial gender-equity study completed for the NCAA by Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP in August 2021. That report came after public outcry over the unequal treatment of the men's and women's basketball teams in their 2021 championship tournaments, and it included recommendations for change.

Kaplan Hecker then issued a second report in October 2021 that criticized the NCAA for its focus on revenue-producing sports, citing it as the main cause of gender disparities in college sports. The report also said structural deficiencies within the NCAA, media contract demands, and a delayed recognition of women's competitions also were contributors.

The second report looked beyond basketball to include 84 championships in 23 sports, such as baseball, beach volleyball, bowling, cross-country, and field hockey.

The Division I basketball tournaments are critically important to the NCAA. Most of the organization's revenue comes from its contract for the television rights to the men's Division I basketball tournament. The contract with CBS and Turner Sports paid the NCAA $850 million in 2021 and was scheduled to pay $870 million in 2022.

The contract for the women's tournament was sold in 2011 under a $500 million deal to ESPN that expires at the end of the 2023-2024 season. But with the expansion of the women's tournament and its inclusion under the March Madness brand, the next television contract will likely be worth many more millions of dollars.