The law firm hired by the NCAA to conduct a gender equity review of its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments released a 115-page report Tuesday that recommends, among other things, that the NCAA host both Final Fours in a single location. That suggestion is one of many made by the law firm Kaplan Hecker & Fink following well-publicized disparities between the 2021 men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments.
Among the other key findings by the New York-based firm are that the NCAA is “significantly undervaluing women’s basketball as an asset.” The NCAA’s current women’s basketball tournament TV deal is combined with 28 other championships and earns $34 million per year. The women’s tournament alone, however, is expected to be worth between $81 and $112 million in 2025, according to an independent analysis from Ed Desser cited by the report.
The report notes the NCAA’s current TV contract for the women’s basketball tournament “likely does not reflect the true value of the women’s basketball championship broadcast rights” because the event has not been put up for competitive bid in 20 years.
“The NCAA Board of Governors is wholly committed to an equitable experience among its championships. We know that has not always been the case and the instance of the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship is an important impetus for us to improve our championship experience so it is not repeated,” The NCAA said in a statement. “This report provides useful guidance to improve our championships. We have directed the NCAA president to act urgently to address any organizational issues. We have also called him to begin work this week with the three divisions and appropriate committees to outline next steps, develop recommendations and effectuate change. We will continue to review and process the recommendations in the gender equity report as we move forward to strengthen championships for all student-athletes.”
Another key recommendation is that the NCAA use “March Madness” to market both the men’s and women’s tournaments. The initial criticism of the NCAA for its handling of the women’s basketball tournament came as footage circulated on social media in March showing a weight training area at the 2021 women’s tournament in San Antonio, Texas, that paled in comparison to the facilities at the men’s tournament in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Though the report noted the unorthodox circumstances of the tournaments being held in centralized locations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it suggested combining the locations of future Final Fours to avoid similar discrepancies in the future.
“There is also no question that planning and promoting combined Final Fours, rather than two separate events, would create significant efficiencies and cost-savings for the NCAA, its membership, and its partners,” the report read. “These cost savings would be even more significant if the NCAA chose to also hold the Final Fours in the same venue. There would similarly be an advantage from a monitoring perspective since it would be a lot easier to determine whether hotel rooms, food, locker and weight room facilities, or signage are comparable if they are all in the same city.”