BY Amanda Christovich
Gender inequity isn’t new in NCAA basketball — or the rest of the sports industry, for that matter.
But the disparities between last year’s two Division I basketball tournament semi-bubbles were so stark, they drew outrage from federal lawmakers, professional athletes, brands, and media outlets — not to mention players and coaches themselves.
In the aftermath, an extensive report commissioned by the NCAA found inequity is “baked into the very fabric of the tournaments.” Conducted by Kaplan Hecker & Fink, it found that revenue distribution, contracts, and even the culture “prioritize Division I men’s basketball over everything else.”
Despite this, women’s basketball has grown exponentially. Ratings have skyrocketed. ESPN sold out advertising and sponsorship inventory for the 2022 tournament faster than ever, ESPN coordinating producer Patricia Lowry told Front Office Sports. On-the-ground sponsorship activations have increased. Even the ESPN women’s bracket challenge participation has risen.