Division I Women’s Basketball Joins March Madness

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) will now use the slogan “March Madness” to promote the Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament. The slogan, which has been successfully utilized to market the men’s basketball tournament for many decades, looks to give equal promotion to both championships, increase the popularity levels for the women’s tournament, and combat the gender inequalities that have riddled the NCAA. 

The recent release of information in the NCAA’s External Gender Equity Review prompted the change. The report states: “The NCAA’s broadcast agreements, corporate sponsorship contracts, distribution of revenue, organizational structure, and culture all prioritize Division I men’s basketball over everything else in ways that create, normalize, and perpetuate gender inequities.” The report also detailed many disparities between the amenities provided for the male and female athletes at the 2021 Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships, including the quality of food, accommodations, swag bags, and most widely publicized, the weight rooms. Most importantly, however, the report details systemic inequalities within the NCAA that stifle the growth of women’s basketball.

The prioritization of men’s basketball perpetuates inequality in college athletics. Men’s basketball receives greater publicity and airtime, which in turn brings in greater revenue. The NCAA hopes that by including the “March Madness” slogan in Women’s basketball, it will bring more emphasis on the women. Especially as eight women were among the top 10 most-followed players on social media from last year’s men’s and women’s Elite Eight teams, increased investment in the women’s game could help the NCAA reap many rewards. Lisa Campos, a member of the NCAA Division I council, said “This is just the start when it comes to improving gender equity in the way the two Division I basketball championships are conducted … adding the March Madness trademark to the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship will enhance the development and public perception of the sport.” 

The NCAA is also attempting to combat inequalities between men’s and women’s basketball with a new system in the allocation of  funds for both tournaments. Instead of adjusting figures from previous years as the prime determinant, the NCAA will split funds equally in hopes of increasing cross-promotion and financial equity. These efforts are only the start of the movement for the NCAA to rectify the longstanding gender equity issues between men and women’s basketball.