Next suggested gender equity steps for the NCAA

By Michael Smith

A summary of the recommendations provided in the Kaplan Report on gender equity. Phase 1 focused on the disparities between men’s and women’s basketball. Phase 2 addressed 84 other NCAA championships and was released last week.

lllustration by Corey M. Edwards

Phase 1

Released Aug. 2

Recommendations already implemented or under consideration:

■ Create a senior position of chief business officer to implement a strategy in the marketing, promotion and sponsorship that ensures the long-term sustainability of the NCAA. The CBO would oversee the NCAA’s media partner relationships with CBS/Turner and ESPN, the corporate partner program, social media and digital, and branding and marketing for all championships.


■ The women’s basketball tournament will start using the March Madness branding and marketing, beginning with the 2022 championship. Nina King, chair of the women’s basketball committee, said the women will have their own version of the logo “with a different touch to it.”*


■ This season’s women’s tournament field will expand from 64 teams to 68, same as the men, the committee voted. The proposal is expected to be approved for the 2022 tournament in the coming weeks.*


■ The men’s and women’s committees adopted zero-based budgeting models for their championships starting this season.*


■ The committee agreed with the Kaplan Report recommendation to explore a combined men’s and women’s Final Four in the same city. A subcommittee of men’s and women’s committee members is being formed. The earliest combined championships could happen would be 2027.


■ Unbundle the women’s basketball championship from other NCAA sports and take it to the marketplace separately. A Desser Sports Media report estimated that the women’s basketball tournament media rights should be valued between $81 million and $112 million, compared to the $34 million the NCAA currently receives from ESPN for 29 championships bundled together. The ESPN deal runs through 2025. Desser also advised that other championships, such as the men’s and women’s College World Series, would benefit from going to market separately.


■ Create more opportunities for sponsors to get involved with the women’s tournament so that it will have a similar “look and feel” as the men by selling the women’s championship as a “stand-alone event.” This could be accomplished by creating a new tier of the NCAA’s partner program.


■ Conduct real-time and annual audits of the men’s and women’s championships to monitor gender equity concerns.


■ The men’s and women’s basketball committees should meet and collaborate with each other regularly.*


*Note:  The steps in bold have already been implemented

Phase 2

Released Oct. 26


■ Develop a clear set of criteria for resource allocation at non-basketball championships.


■ Establish a system for collecting standardized data pertaining to gender equity so that annual audits can be performed more easily.


■ Compile a list of gender equity actions that have been taken.


■ Increase the number of senior staffers to provide greater oversight of gender equity.


■ Create equitable branding guidelines, including use of “men’s” and “women’s” to designate gender in championship titles.


■ Regularly review roster sizes, travel parties, accommodations, player gifts, tournament field and number of teams for men’s and women’s championships to ensure gender equity.


■ Assess opportunities to combine or “co-locate” men’s and women’s championships.


Note: The Kaplan Report was prepared for the NCAA by New York-based Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP.

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