When March approaches, many sport-lovers and avid basketball fans excitedly await the start of March Madness. Fans anticipate the faceoff of the blues: the men's Duke and UNC basketball teams and scout out the potential men's upsets. Yet, behind this madness, and certainly behind the scene, lies the women's tournament.
In August 2021, Sedona Prince, a junior on the women's Oregon basketball team, uploaded a social media post documenting a lonely pair of dumbbells and a yoga mat in the woman's exercise room. This post, paired with the national outcry for equal amenities for women and men, established a 114-page report detailing the inequalities between the tournaments.
Yet, the 2022 March Madness tournament was a significant turning point in the NCAA's promise toward gender equality. Sixty-eight teams, instead of sixty-four teams, competed. The tournament used the March Madness brand logo for the women's tournament, the referees were paid the same in both tournaments, and the players' swag bags of March Madness gear were identical.
Despite these initiatives and NCAA's hope to address the women's grievances, further changes need to be implemented to reinforce men and women athletes as equals. Right now, policies make up the balance on the court. Yet to establish institutional change, there needs to be a change in mindset. Women have battled disrespect and inequality for nearly half a century, and these changes are just the beginning of a long road of change. I believe that with further investments into women's sports, there can be honest, lasting change.
For example, ESPN, the channel that broadcasts the women's tournament, needs to ensure coverage of the women's sport and focus on the broad population of women college hoopers.
Instead of merely focusing on UCONN's successes, the channel can broadcast all-women teams, demonstrating that all college players are deserving of fair treatment.
In addition, the broadcasting rights for the women's tournaments have not been analyzed since 2001. Although previously valued at $6 million a year, Kaplan finds that its actual value can be more than $80 million per year. Finally, only the men's game takes part in an incentive system, where successful school and conference men's teams receive revenue. Because of this, schools prioritize the men's programs over the women's and contribute to the greater sphere of gender inequality on the court.
Although the 2022 tournament had marked a revolution in the tournament, it is evident that sweeping changes still need to occur for all women to stay equal on the court.