Every year the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) hosts the March Madness tournament, where 68 men and 68 women college basketball teams from around the country compete to win the NCAA championship. The teams are chosen based on an NCAA selection committee who bases their decisions on the teams’ wins, difficulty of schedule, etc.
The tournament has become popular because it allows individuals to create their own brackets of the teams, pick who will win each game and compete against friends through a point system.
For many years the women’s tournament has been swept under the rug and ignored. That is, until two years ago, when a TikTok video was published showing the disparity in the women’s weight room vs. the men’s at the NCAA tournament.
The video shows one pathetic, small rack of weights for the women to use to workout compared to a huge room filled with high-quality equipment for the men. There are many problems with this but the first one that comes to mind is, why is there even a separate room at all?
The video sparked nationwide outrage and according to Forbes, the video resulted in the NCAA commissioning an external gender equity review of the March Madness tournament.
The review promoted some much-needed change on behalf of women participating in the tournament. Although, who knows if this would have ever happened if the NCAA had not been called out for it. Looking at the video, it seems fairly obvious that someone planned on bringing attention to this.
Some of the changes made to the women’s tournament were adding the same number of teams as the men’s and permission to use the same traditional March Madness branding. Two things that seem like the bare minimum and should have already been in place.
Unfortunately, with these changes to branding, teams and weight rooms did not come with increased visibility of the women’s tournament. Even just doing a google search for “March Madness” turns up little to no women in the results.
“ESPN had 17.3 million brackets completed for their Men’s NCAA Tournament Challenge and a mere 1.5 million brackets were completed for ESPN’s Women’s NCAA Tournament Challenge,” the Forbes article states.
This proves that the NCAA still has much to work on in terms of increasing marketing, investment and visibility for women’s basketball. Viewers of only the men’s tournaments also have a responsibility, though. One of the main reasons NCAA will choose to up their marketing and investment is through seeing an increase in viewers of the women’s tournament.
Encourage people you know who participate in March Madness to fill out both a men’s and women’s bracket. Sports have long been a place where men and women are treated unequally and given that March Madness is such a popular sporting event to watch, working on this divide on such a big stage could hopefully carry on to other sports and organizations as well.