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NCAA: What’s next?

Basketball

April 04, 2022
BEN SOLOMON/NCAA PHOTOS VIA GETTY IMAGES
BEN SOLOMON/NCAA PHOTOS VIA GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: With more brand support and viewership than ever before, women’s basketball (WBB) might be the NCAA’s hottest growing property. But, though the NCAA made some much-needed progress toward gender equity in this year’s March Madness, president Mark Emmert was noncommittal on what’s next — particularly regarding revenue distribution.

The details: Emmert said Thursday that the NCAA had “preliminary discussions” about a new broadcast partnership for the women’s tournament, as the current contract with ESPN — a bundle with 28 other collegiate championships — expires in 2024. Negotiating a standalone deal would allow a first crack at (finally) properly valuing the tournament, but would also open up a different can of worms — how to distribute the broadcast money.

  • The NCAA’s current distribution structure allows conferences to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars per March Madness game their men play — funds which are then redistributed to member schools as their agreements dictate. There is no matching setup for WBB, and Emmert offered nothing concrete to fix it.
  • A well-negotiated broadcast deal will be key. WBB annual rights could be worth between $81 million and $112 million on their own, making a solid case for WBB schools to receive tourney money, too.

Zooming out: While the future media deal is a focal point, the NCAA’s failure to commit to equitable distribution in advance defeats its purpose.

  • That’s why three U.S. congresswomen are taking action. After criticizing the NCAA last month, the trio introduced legislation Thursday to evaluate gender equity in the organization.
  • Equal investment in women and men generates vital revenue streams for all. For example, sponsors of the Matildas — Australia’s women’s soccer team — came to the governing body’s aid during the financial crisis brought on by the pandemic.