On Wednesday, the NCAA took another step to improve gender equity in Division I basketball.
The Division I Council approved plans for an NCAA-run, 32-team women’s tournament similar to the mens NIT that could begin as early as 2023-24 — equalizing NCAA-sponsored postseason opportunities between D-I men’s and women’s teams. The NCAA’s next step is considering financial details of the tournament.
A women’s NIT does currently exist, but it’s run by an outside company. The NCAA’s event will be similar, but will not be called the “WNIT.”
The council also approved an inaugural girls College Basketball Academy for the summer of 2023 — a boys academy began in 2019.
A gender equity report, commissioned by the governing body in 2021, inspired both of these recommendations — among dozens of others. The NCAA has been chipping away at improvements since then.
It made improvements to the cosmetic experience of the 2022 tournament, from using March Madness branding to providing the same swag bags for men and women.
The NCAA is working on structural fixes, like maximizing future media rights revenue for women’s basketball. Implementing a women’s tournament in 2023-24 could help, as it would allow the NCAA to demonstrate the potential value to partners at least a year before its championship contract with ESPN expires in 2025.
Another systemic fix: renegotiating a problematic sponsorship rights agreement with CBS/Turner that requires companies to purchase rights to men’s basketball, regardless of what other sport they want to endorse.