March Insanity May Spark a Title IX Reckoning
The current attention to the differences between the men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments may be just the thing to force an NCAA Title IX payroll. For example, the day after Prince’s video was released, Suzette McQueen, chairwoman of the NCAA Women’s Athletics Committee, wrote a letter to Emmert asking for an investigation into the emergence of inequality in the weight room. McQueen noted that the incident “undermined the authority of the NCAA as an advocate and guarantor of Title IX protection”. Under current law, the NCAA is not required to comply with Title IX, but McQueen’s language certainly shows that the organization is concerned about at least appearing to be doing it.
On March 24, the federal legislature made a similar argument. According to a letter from the Washington Post, a group of 36 House Democrats wrote to Emmert to request a review of “all other championship competitions to ensure they adhere to the principles of gender equality of Title IX.” The next day, Emmert announced that the NCAA had hired a law firm to conduct an external review of the equality of all three championships in all three divisions. In response, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association said the review needs to go further.
“There is no question that women are discriminated against by the NCAA,” Ellen Staurowsky, a sports media professor at Ithaca College, told me over the phone. She pointed to the success of the NCAA in turning the annual men’s basketball tournament into unmistakable TV status and securing more than $ 1 billion in broadcast and advertising rights this year alone. The women’s tournament, which was acquired by the NCAA in 1982, brings in just $ 35 million a year in broadcast rights, roughly 3 percent of the men’s tournament numbers. “That percentage hasn’t changed in 30 years,” said Staurowsky. “And for a company that … built its business on media, that discrepancy is by design.”
Chaudhry said you don’t have to be an expert to see the advertising differences that exist. “At the college level, we see men’s teams getting polished media leaders, and they may have sports promotion staff to promote their teams or more cheerleaders and band support,” she said. “And then there is the question of media coverage and whether the school is working to achieve the same media coverage and exposure for men’s and women’s teams. Schools can’t just say that it’s all about market forces. You have to look at what they are doing … because Title IX covers advertising and promotions. “
The NCAA, which promotes “fairness,” claims that the budget differences for the tournaments – and the fact that schools receive league revenue for the men’s teams they send to the tournament, but not the women’s teams – is due to the women’s tournament is not profitable and has fewer fans. The claim that the women’s site is not as marketable is questionable considering that eight of the top ten college basketball players with the biggest social media followers are women. Some experts also question finances. An analyst who testified in an ongoing NCAA antitrust case and had access to NCAA financial documents estimated that NCAA Division 1 women’s basketball had sales of $ 1 billion for the 2018-19 season. (The league does not publicly release its financial documents, despite recently saying that the 2019 women’s tournament lost $ 2.8 million. The NCAA did not respond to my request for comment.)