Significant changes to the NCAA basketball tournament empower women and athletes

By Irene Racharla, 3/17/2022

Athletes and fans are excited to see the remarkable changes addressing gender inequalities in the NCAA Basketball Tournaments starting March 17.

The NCAA Basketball Tournament is one of the most awaited annual sporting events. Branded as “March Madness,” this is a national tournament of Division I collegiate basketball teams, all competing to win the title of March Madness Champions.

The first round of games starts on March 17 and the championship games will be April 4 for men, April 3 for women.

Over the years, the NCAA has experienced many gender issues at its tournaments, specifically hindering the success of the women’s teams. NPR reported that the women’s teams were provided with insufficient training equipment and poorer quality of food.

One of the biggest disparities, however, is availability and access to the women’s games. Cable television will typically prioritize the men’s tournament over the women’s tournament.

“If I’m honest I probably tend to watch more men’s [games] because they are more accessible, but when it comes to checking scores, I am probably more on the women’s side,” former Whitworth women’s basketball head coach Helen Higgs said.

This year, Sports Illustrated published an article displaying the significant changes the NCAA made to the tournament in hopes to bring equal opportunity to the women’s teams as offered to the men’s teams. Women can now compete with 68 teams and their tournaments is now officially branded as March Madness. Both men’s and women’s teams will be equally funded, allowing women’s games and fan events to look more like the men’s events.

Many women are excited to see these recent changes implemented into this year’s March Madness Tournament. Higgs, a former basketball player at the University of Oregon, says she is passionate about basketball and gender issues in the sports field and excited about these changes.

“I celebrate any progress. I think working on it, seeing the issues, and being proactive on it is great. March Madness is low-hanging fruit that has power because it opens an opportunity to find great women’s games and athletes,” Higgs said.

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