In 118 pages, a law firm confirmed what we already knew.
The NCAA discriminates against women’s basketball.
NCAA Women’s Basketball
The goal of the report was to analyze March Madness gender equity. The reason (at least partially) was a video that included these weight room images:
For 2021 March Madness, not only were the men and women in separate cities, but also their facilities were vastly different. On the right (above) the men’s workout room had the extensive equipment array that you would expect for 68 teams. Meanwhile, in San Antonio, more than 800 women on 64 teams shared a dumbbell rack, an exercise bike, and a yoga mat.
The key though is the bigger picture.
The NCAA culture neglected the women. Whereas the NCAA invested in its men, it under-promoted the women. When the NCAA spent $53.2 million on the men and $17.9 million on its women in 2019, the women lost $2.8 million. However, the broadcast rights sold by the NCAA to ESPN guaranteed the women would attract less attention and revenue.
Now the report has the remedy.
Concentrating on revenue distribution, broadcast rights, and participation opportunities, they suggest new policies. Broadcast auctions need to change, staff needs to be reallocated, priorities have to shift. Sports experts estimated that the women’s broadcast rights could be sold for $100 million in 2025 when the current deal expires. The tradition of corporate sponsors focusing on the men has to end.
Our Bottom Line: Confirmation Bias
Through broadcast agreements, corporate sponsorships, and revenue distribution, the inequity was perpetuated. When gender disparities reinforce themselves, an economist might say the reason is confirmation bias. Confirmation bias occurs when an outcome is the result of what we expect. In a legendary primary school experiment, teachers predicted that blue-eyed children would be smarter, and they were. When they switched to brown eyes, so too did the brains. With athletics, we expect the women to generate less income and excitement so they do. If we believed the opposite, we would make it happen.
Although the NCAA said it was, “wholly committed to an equitable experience among its championships,” I suspect that their institutions and attitudes will create resistance. Happily, the numbers could nudge them in the right direction. More of us are watching the women’s title game while viewership of the major men’s game slipped. Between 2015 and 2021, the men’s game audience was down 40 percent (at 16.9 million) while the women were up 32 percent (4.1 million).
My sources and more: We had the perfect synergy between this econlife post and yesterday’s WSJ article on gender inequality. From there, you might want to take a look at the 118 page Gender Equity Review. But if you read just one article, do take a look at this Washington Post discussion about the growing popularity of the women’s teams. (Please note that today we included several sentences from a past econlife post.)