Law Firm Advises NCAA to Combine Men, Women’s Final Four Tournament to Address ‘Gender Disparity’

NCAA
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

A report by the law firm Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP recommends that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) combine the men’s and women’s Final Four tournaments to stop “undervaluing and underfunding the women’s game.”

The Washington Post reported that the review mentions combining the men’s and woman’s Final Four tournament, in addition to “changes in the organization’s leadership structure, media contracts, and revenue calculation,” to fix the “gender disparity” that has gone on inside the NCAA.

The NCAA commissioned the report itself due to the controversy in March after the reporting of noticeable differences between the men’s and woman’s Final Four tournaments. Since both tournaments happened at the same time this past year, it was easy to compare what the student-athletes went through inside the “bubbles” for protection from the Chinese coronavirus.

The law firm’s report showed that though the issues have been ongoing for years, the “gender inequity” spotlight was shown center stage with the different conditions the male and female student-athletes saw.

“When you lay the men’s and women’s [Division I basketball] championships side by side, as has been made clear over the past weeks, it is pretty self-evident that we dropped the ball in supporting our women’s athletes, and we can’t do that,” acknowledged the NCAA President Mark Emmert after the tournament was played.

The Post noted that officials at the NCAA, when asked “repeatedly refused to allow women’s tournament organizers to use the “March Madness” branding in any promotional materials, the report found — even denying their request to print masks with the phrase “Mask Madness” for the tournament this year.”

The report added that the NCAA secures corporate sponsors for the men’s tournament but not for the women’s. In addition to signage, the NCAA “spent $2.4 million on signage for its men’s tournament, and only $783,000 on the women.”

The Post added:

The report also outlined the ways the NCAA’s disparate treatment of men and women basketball players trickled down to affect how colleges themselves treated their women’s programs.

A “Basketball Performance Fund” distributes money to conferences based on how well their men’s basketball teams perform — some $168 million in 2021, a result of the fact that men’s basketball tournament is by far the most significant revenue generator for the NCAA.

But there is no financial reward whatsoever for high-performing women’s programs, a fact the report called “inconsistent with Title IX.” The NCAA’s fund incentivizes schools to focus on men’s basketball over women’s, the report found, and makes no financial effort to reward gender equity.

“Gender inequities were baked into the very fabric of the tournaments and how the tournaments were viewed by the NCAA,” the report said.

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