March 25, 2021 

Amid criticism, NCAA plans independent gender equity review

Critics decry the move as a stall tactic

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2021 Final Four Logo. (Courtesy of the NCAA)

NCAA President Mark Emmert released a statement today announcing that the NCAA will be conducting an independent equity review of collegiate sports championships across all three Divisions. President Emmert shared that the NCAA will be working with the law firm of Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP to evaluate the organization’s practices and policies related to gender equity and to provide recommendations for improvement.

“The NCAA will continue to aggressively address material and impactful differences between the Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships,” Emmert said in the statement. “While many of the operational issues identified have been resolved, we must continue to make sure we are doing all we can to support gender equity in sports. As part of this effort, we are evaluating the current and previous resource allocation to each championship, so we have a clear understanding of costs, spending, and revenue.” 

The statement comes amidst widespread social media reactions from current NCAA players and coaches, WNBA and NBA players, and members of the national media in response to disparities between the men’s NCAA Tournament bubble in Indianapolis and the women’s bubble in San Antonio. Among other disparities, players and coaches highlighted inadequate weight room facilities, food, and testing protocols as compared to the men’s tournament in Indianapolis. 

Dawn Staley, current head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks and the USA Women’s National Team, was among the first coaches to speak out against the disparities from the women’s bubble in San Antonio.

Nell Fortner, current head coach of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and prolific former head coach at the collegiate, professional, and international levels “thanked” the NCAA for revealing these long-standing disparities on “full display.” She highlighted the presence that women’s basketball commands in the media market despite chronic lack of equitable investment in the women’s tournament.  

ESPN Basketball Analyst Jay Bilas took to Twitter to share his reaction to Emmert’s statement, voicing his disapproval of the equity review:

President Emmert said the law firm, “which has significant experience in Title IX and gender equity issues,” will help to identify gaps that the NCAA must address to “achieve gender equity.” The NCAA hopes to complete preliminary assessments in late April with a final report this summer, at the completion of all NCAA championships. 

Written by Tee Baker

Tee has been a contributor to The Next since March Madness 2021 and is currently a contributing editor, BIG EAST beat reporter and curator of historical deep dives.

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