By Teresa M. Walker
The phrase “March Madness” is everywhere this women’s NCAA Tournament.
On scoreboards in place of team names during practices. Scrolling on video ribbon boards. On banners inside the arenas. On the courts themselves with a bit of TV magic through the first two rounds. On hats given to both women and men with swag boxes that are equal for both men’s and women’s players this spring after an uproar at the tourney a year ago.
It’s a start. It’s also not enough for the coaches and players — and presumably the NCAA. Growing women’s basketball is more than logos, gifts and an equal number of teams, now 68 for both for the first time. South Carolina coach Dawn Staley has an idea the NCAA can implement immediately to really help women close the gap with the men.
“The units,” Staley explained, meaning money. “Like men’s basketball, they get units, and those units equal dollar signs. I would like for us to divvy it up like the 68 teams get (their money) divvied up once the tournament ends.”
Men’s conferences get a unit valued this year at $338,210.96 for each NCAA Tournament game one of their teams plays. The money goes to each team’s conference paid out over six years with a true value around $2.03 million. That means the Big Ten will get more than $18 million thanks to having nine teams in this tournament field.