The NCAA announced Wednesday that it will use the March Madness branding synonymous with the men’s NCAA Tournament for the Women’s NCAA Tournament beginning in 2022. It’s one change that was recommended in a 115-page August report from the law firm Kaplan, Hecker & Fink that was hired to conduct a review of the disparities between the 2021 men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments.
“Women’s basketball has grown tremendously over the past several years, and we remain focused on our priority of enhancing and growing the game,” NCAA vice president of women’s basketball Lynn Holzman said. “The brand recognition that March Madness carries will broaden marketing opportunities as we continue that work to elevate the women’s basketball championship.”
In its announcement of the branding change, the NCAA said the move is “one of many initiatives being evaluated to address gender inequity issues.” The NCAA received criticism in March when photos and videos surfaced showing training facilities at the Women’s NCAA Tournament that paled in comparison to those at the men’s event. The inequality between the tournaments sparked the third-party review, which found that the NCAA is “significantly undervaluing women’s basketball as an asset.”
Thursday’s announcement marked a first step towards rectifying the issue as the NCAA also announced it is moving to a “zero-based budgeting method” for both tournaments instead of setting budges based off previous fiscal years.
“The move is designed to show where justifiable differences in the allocation of championship financial resources exist and are appropriate, with an eye toward increasing opportunities for planning collaboration and cross-promotion, as well as making the two championships more financially equitable,” the NCAA statement said.
Specifics on how the March Madness branding will be applied to the women’s tournament “are still being developed,” according to the NCAA. Among the other major changes recommended in the August report were that the NCAA host both the men’s and women’s Final Fours in a single location.