Report drills NCAA on equity, calls for combined Final Four

The NCAA fell short of its commitment to gender equality by prioritizing its Division I cash cow men’s basketball tournament “over everything else,” according to a scathing review published Tuesday after an uproar over how the association did was published, was published

The NCAA has broken its commitment to gender equality by prioritizing its Division I cash cow men’s basketball tournament “above everything else,” according to a scathing review published Tuesday after an uproar over how the association did conducts its championship events has been published.

A law firm hired by the NCAA released a 113-page report that made a number of recommendations, including holding the men’s and women’s final fours in the same place and providing financial incentives for schools to improve their basketball programs for women.

But it tore the NCAA apart for falling into an entrenched approach to women’s football, preventing its growth, and leading to an embarrassing lack of equality with men.

“With regard to women’s basketball, the NCAA has failed to live up to its stated commitment to ‘diversity, inclusion and gender equality among its student athletes, coaches and administrators,’” the report said.

The review was conducted by Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, which was discontinued in March after the NCAA failed to provide similar amenities to teams in the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. The situation exploded on social media amid player complaints and excuses from NCAA executives, including President Mark Emmert.

In a statement, the NCAA Board of Governors said it is “fully committed to an equitable experience under its championships” and urged Emmert to take urgent action. Coaches around the game applauded the criticism.

“I very much hope that this report will inspire big changes !!!” National Champion Stanford’s Hall of Fame trainer Tara VanDerveer said in a text message to AP.

Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman, who wrote a 2013 paper for the NCAA that made some of the same recommendations, including a combined Final Four weekend, called the report a starting point.

“I don’t think implementation will be a breeze, given the cumbersome nature of the NCAA bureaucracy, but I hope it creates a sense of urgency for changes to be made,” she said.

The report noted that the disparities were not limited to this year’s tournaments and that the basic financial arrangement shared responsibility for the NCAA and its member schools: Kaplan said the structure and systems of the NCAA “are designed to be of value and support of Division I Men ”. Basketball Championship as the main source of funding for the NCAA and its members. ”

The NCAA’s revenue surpassed $ 1 billion in the year before the pandemic, of which nearly $ 900 million was tied to the media rights deal with CBS and Turner for the men’s tournament.

The women’s tournament, meanwhile, is part of a package of more than two dozen other NCAA championships that ESPN owns that will pay approximately $ 34 million a year through 2023-24. According to a team of sports media and marketing experts for Kaplan, the women’s tournament will be valued at between $ 81 million and $ 112 million annually from 2025 onwards.

Criticizing the NCAA for failing to recognize or prepare for this appreciation, the report said that revenue from the men’s tournament media deal resulted in this event “being prioritized above all else in a way that creates gender inequalities , normalized and maintained ”.

“We urge the NCAA to review with its media partners all broadcast rights agreements that include women’s basketball – especially the contract with ESPN – as soon as possible to ensure that the NCAA, conferences and member institutions are fairly compensated for our product, sports on the floor, ”said Danielle Donehew, executive director of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, in a statement.

ESPN, which is credited by some for helping boost the game by broadcasting the women’s tournament exclusively since 1985, said it would review the report.

“ESPN is committed to continuing to work with the NCAA and other womens basketball stakeholders to improve the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship and expand the game at all levels while increasing the overall presence of women’s sport,” said the cable giant.

Officials from CBS and Turner Sports did not immediately respond to messages asking for comments.

California basketball coach Charmin Smith said the report shed light on inequalities she’s watched for years.

“Yes, it sure is positive,” said Smith. “I think the NCAA has been proclaimed in various ways lately and the NCAA will have to turn around and adjust to avoid any more lawsuits. It has got to the point where” enough is enough. “

Kaplan said holding the Final Fours in the same location would allow for better cross-promotion of the events and the involvement of sponsors in each tournament. The report called it “the best means available to develop women’s basketball”.

VanDerveer and Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma both said they weren’t convinced of the Final Fours combination but wanted to stay open to the idea.

“It’s worth a try. It is possible. With tennis and the Olympic Games, we have succeeded,” said Auriemma. “Will there be enough coverage so that nobody gets lost in the mess? That is the question.”

Kaplan also recommended using the March Madness branding for the women’s tournament – something the NCAA approved a few months ago amid the tournament outcry – and expanding the field from 64 to 68 teams to match the size of the men’s class.

The proceeds from the CBS / Turner deal will be returned to schools by the NCAA, much of it in “units” earned from conferences based on individual schools’ tournament performance. A similar distribution is not made for the women’s tournament, but Kaplan suggested that using a similar model could encourage schools to spend more to improve basketball programs for women.

The NCAA has been fighting justice for their two marquee tournaments for years and similar suggestions have been made earlier to make improvements.

What happened this year brought the issue back to the fore.

Among other things, female players, coaches, and staff criticized the NCAA for initially failing to provide a full strength training area to women’s teams in San Antonio, noting that men’s teams in and around Indianapolis didn’t have the same problem. Because of the pandemic, both tournaments were held at individual locations.

Kaplan noted that the weight room issues and other differences between the two events, such as COVID-19 testing protocols, meals, signage, and outdoor recreation, were mainly due to a lack of staffing and coordination of the women’s tournament – a major issue for the occasion gave concern in retrospect – between the organizers of the two events.

“The employee responsible for qualifications, game operations and about 30 other tasks in women’s basketball had about eight colleagues in men’s basketball with whom she should theoretically coordinate,” says the report.

Emmert and others apologized and ordered the investigation. Other complaints have surfaced at the women’s volleyball tournament in Omaha, Nebraska, and the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.

Carolyn Maloney (DN.Y.), Chair of the Oversight and Reform Committee, and two of her Democratic counterparts called the report scathing and said the NCAA had done nothing for years to address gender equality issues. Committee members requested a briefing from the NCAA along with financial records.

The review called for annual assessments by the NCAA to track progress on gender equality.

“Let’s see what comes of it,” said Auriemma. “I’m interested in the responses from college presidents and (sports directors).”


AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley, Aaron Beard, Eric Olson, Joe Reedy, Doug Feinberg, and Pete Iacobelli contributed.


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Ralph D. Russo, The Associated Press

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