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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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The First Step

  • Using March Madness branding at the NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament was one of the Gender Equity Review's many recommendations.
  • Experts told FOS they believe it will begin to right a historic wrong.
Photo: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY/Design: Alex Brooks

The NCAA’s Gender Equity Review provided dozens of pages of recommendations. Allowing women’s basketball to use “March Madness” was just a first step — but it could be an important one.

Experts told FOS they believe it will begin to right a historic wrong: that women’s basketball didn’t have access to one of the strongest and most lucrative brands in college sports. 

  • Southern Utah economics professor David Berri: “The men and women have historically been promoted very differently. This is why women’s sports lags behind men’s sports in revenue.”
  • University of Pennsylvania sports finance expert Karen Weaver: “March Madness is a term synonymous with college basketball. The NCAA has worked hard to protect that brand. It’s appropriate that the women be able to use that branding as well.”
  • SUNY Cortland sports management professor Lindsey Darvin: “The women have already done a phenomenal job organically growing [tournament] viewership, so those efforts, now combined with the March Madness branding, will further bolster engagement.”

But there’s more to be done. Berri said that “the most important step the NCAA could make is making sure they sell the rights to the women’s basketball games separately.” 

Currently, rights are bundled with 24 other sports, and undervalued by millions of dollars, the Gender Equity Review found.

Arizona State sports historian Victoria Jackson agreed that while this is “good news,” it’s not enough.

“If it’s a first step toward more substantive change and the adoption of the recommendations of the Kaplan Report, well then that’s a different story and they’ll be able to hear me cheering in Indianapolis, which I think is about 1,500 miles away,” Jackson said.

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