The NCAA is progressing on discussions to move the Division I Final Fours to separate weekends as it receives more stakeholder feedback, according to minutes from October NCAA meetings.
An NCAA spokesperson told Front Office Sports there is no formal proposal “at this time.” But the meeting minutes said there have been “key discussions during the recent membership input session,” and that conversations are being elevated through the labyrinth of NCAA committees.
The idea is part of an ongoing movement to improve gender equity in women’s basketball. The NCAA has painted it as an alternative to combining the Final Fours — a recommendation made by a 2021 gender equity report.
Holding them in the same city and on the same weekend was ultimately controversial — only 55% of Division I women’s coaches supported it in a Women’s Basketball Coaches Association survey. The NCAA pushed the idea off until at least 2031.
The potential benefit of alternate weekends, according to the meeting minutes, would be to “provide the opportunity for the growth of the sport and the championship.”
Media members, fans, and college sports executives perennially have to choose which Final Four to attend — putting the women’s tournament at a significant disadvantage.
Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman, a longtime proponent of combining the events, traveled back and forth to both last year. She told Front Office Sports the experience was extremely grueling.
Moving the women’s Final Four could alleviate this issue — but it presents other scheduling concerns, like starting the entire women’s tournament one week earlier or pitting the Final Four up against The Masters.
The move wouldn’t necessarily assuage other equity concerns, like the sponsorship conundrum.
The NCAA’s sponsorship agreement is currently held by CBS/Warner Bros. Discovery — who only own media rights to the men’s tournament. The agreement does not allow sponsors to buy a la carte deals — they have to buy into men’s basketball if they want to endorse any other sport. For example, a feminine care company would have to buy a D-I men’s basketball sponsorship in order to buy a women’s tournament sponsorship.
Given that this agreement runs until 2032, the gender equity report suggested the NCAA hold the events together so sponsorship resources could be shared.
But the NCAA still isn’t sold on any of that logic — pursuing the alternative weekend concept instead.