Connecticut and South Carolina went all the way to the women’s title match In Minneapolis, and along the way, they didn’t earn a cent from the NCAA that they could possibly spend on scholarships, athletic facilities, or other costs.
But Kansas and North Carolina, the two teams that competed in the men’s championship on Monday night, have likely each earned at least $10 million in the past few weeks.
Since the men’s Division I championship brings in millions of dollars in salaries, women’s basketball coaches and their allies believe officials are more likely to invest in the men’s teams rather than the women’s teams, whose championships earn no money directly from the NCAA, even if they are among the nation’s best.
Variation in NCAA financial arrangements has been around for decades, with the association awarding “units” that turn, over time, into millions of dollars when teams reach and advance to the men’s event.
Now the future of the system is the subject of intense debate within the college sports industry, which has drawn public outrage and congressional scrutiny after players in last year’s men’s tournament got better amenities and facilities than the athletes who participated in the women’s event. The NCAA has taken steps over the past year to enhance and improve conditions in the women’s event; This year, for example, was the first time the federation debuted its “March Madness” brand for the Women’s Championship.
But these changes are, in relative terms, very small alongside potential shifts in the NCAA’s payment structure.
“I really think if we make changes, we should have a similar unit structure,” said Tara Vanderveer, who won three national championships as a women’s coach at Stanford. “I mean, I love crowds. I love streamers.”
But she added, “I think the bottom line is, it’s a TV package and it’s a unit chassis. When that happens, we’ll know it’s dangerous.”
NCAA president Mark Emmert declined to say last week whether he supported an overhaul, but said it was “important” that the schools governing the association consider the changes. At least one NCAA committee is examining this issue.