Each year, the NCAA awards 28% of its annual revenue distribution, which comes to more than $160 million—based on Division I men’s basketball teams’ wins and participation in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. Zero dollars are awarded by the NCAA for performance by women’s basketball teams in the Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament.
On Monday, the Knight Commission, an independent group that advocates for change that prioritizes the health and wellbeing of student-athletes, called for the implementation of a gender equity principle that would provide equal rewards for the performance of women’s and men’s teams. The argument has been that the television media contract for the Men’s Tournament is what funds the distribution.
“As a matter of gender equity and frankly fairness, there should be no connection whatsoever between the money coming into the NCAA and the money being distributed out consistent with principles of gender equity,” said Roberta Kaplan, founding partner of Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, which conducted an independent equity analysis of NCAA championships following the flagrant inequities at the 2021 Tournaments.
“We’re in a world where we know for a fact that given the popularity of women’s sports, there is real revenue that can be obtained and achieved from women’s basketball and probably from some of the other women’s sports as well,” Kaplan said. “It’s unfortunate if not somewhat illogical the NCAA isn’t taking full advantage of that.”
Next month marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the federal civil rights law stating that any education program receiving federal funds cannot discriminate in allocation of those funds based on gender. Kaplan said equitable distribution and investment in women’s sports will lead to true gender equity.
The Knight Commission also recommended a new racial equity standard to help close the graduation gap between white and Black student-athletes. It was noted that despite the Academic Performance Program too many colleges and universities with large racial gaps still qualify for academic awards.
The recommendation is that to qualify for academic-based awards, institutions must demonstrate a racial gap of less than 25 percentage points and this be evaluated every three to four years with the ultimate goal of eliminating the gap and achieving racial equity in the graduation success rate.
“Black college athletes are both the largest racial minority in Division I and the minority group with the largest negative graduation gap compared to the graduate rates of white athletes,” said Knight Commission member Len Elmore. “The NCAA should stop sending millions of dollars to schools that fail to close those gaps.”