Thank you to Sedona Prince for thinking of all of the old folks who aren’t on TikTok and sharing your video on Twitter. As you say, it really does need the attention of a wider audience.
There’s just one problem with Prince’s video, beyond the blatant sexism depicted in the NCAA’s treatment of athletes. Can you tell what it is?
Prince refers to “NCAA March Madness, the biggest tournament in college basketball for women.”
The NCAA made very clear with its swag bags for athletes that MARCH MADNESS — or, if you will, THE BIG DANCE — only refers to the men’s tournament. The women? They’re just playing a tournament of WOMEN’S BASKETBALL.
Just in case all of that wasn’t enough to loudly let women know how much more the NCAA values men, there’s the food. While the men are getting tens of thousands of wings, hundreds of pizzas, and whatever else they might want off the menus of Indianapolis restaurants — even a ukulele — the women in San Antonio are eating “some kind of meat.”
All of that is why the NCAA’s excuse about “limited space” for women’s amenities is transparently bullshit, as if the giant empty space at the convention center in Texas wasn’t enough to show it. The women’s tournament isn’t just an afterthought to the NCAA, it’s a totally separate event. There are two tournaments starting now: March Madness and, what was it the gear said again? Oh, right: WOMEN’S BASKETBALL.
If people buy the explanation that the NCAA always planned to treat women equally, the sad tower of free weights in San Antonio isn’t the only rack of dumbbells on display. Those swag bags and meal plans were put together in advance, and the NCAA was too arrogant, too stupid, or both, to realize that comparisons would be made.
Quite often, when disparities are noted between accommodations for men’s and women’s sports, the point is made that men’s sports are a much bigger business. And it’s true. Even at the University of Connecticut, according to filings with the NCAA obtained by Deadspin through a public records request, the revenues for the men’s basketball program in fiscal year 2019 were $6,028,141, compared to $4,512,083 for the women’s program, which should be noted brought in $1.2 million than UConn football. At Tennessee for fiscal year 2020, men’s basketball had $17.3 million in operating revenues, $14 million more than the women’s program, but all dwarfed by the $92.9 million brought in by football, thanks to the SEC’s television deal — and relying on TV rights fees in this manner helps make it a self-fulfilling prophecy that women’s sports won’t be worth as much. If they’re not on television constantly, they’re not bringing in the big bucks, and if they’re not bringing in the big bucks, there’s no reason to bother trying to get them on television more, or, apparently, feed them adequate meals.
The particularly stupid thing here is that the NCAA, through its unending quest to get the public to believe that it’s not all about money, is leaving truckloads of cash on the table, especially in women’s basketball, where stars can be built in a way that they simply cannot on the men’s side because the best of the best on the men’s side get the hell out of their unpaid apprenticeships as soon as they can to make millions in the NBA. For the women, college basketball is a full four years. How much marketing could the NCAA have done around Sabrina Ionescu that never would have been possible with one-and-done Zion Williamson? Right now, Paige Bueckers is a freshman at UConn and stands, just as incoming Huskies teammate Azzi Fudd does, to be more prominent in her career as a college athlete than any men’s basketball player — are you even going to remember in two years that Cade Cunningham played at Oklahoma State?
The problem with looking at the sports’ revenues, anyway, is that we’re not comparing the NBA and WNBA, which are for-profit enterprises whose behavior is dictated by market forces. The NCAA, supposedly, is above all of that. Supposedly. Not really, though. The NCAA’s Board of Governors has a 60-40 male-female split, for one thing, but the bigger point is that college athletics are just as driven by capitalism as anything else in American society. Just ask the MSU Spartans Presented by Rocket Mortgage. Tom Izzo has plenty of free time now that he’s gotten bounced from March Madness, and he’d surely be glad to chat.
The separate and unequal treatment of men’s and women’s basketball playoffs gives up the game for the NCAA. The money does make all the difference, even though it’s not supposed to because this is, after all, amateur athletics, or so we’re told ad nauseam.
The truth is in the trademarks. The NCAA has registered the use of March Madness, The Big Dance, and The Final Four, as well as Women’s Final Four. Know what’s not on their list? Men’s Final Four. Because to the NCAA, there’s one big event in March, and then some other thing with girls that they have to do and make it look as if they care.
Now we see they can’t even do that. Thanks again, Sedona Prince.