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NCAA president hopeful women’s teams will be rewarded for tournament appearance like men’s teams

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CLEVELAND — Despite huge TV ratings and unprecedented attention for women’s basketball, teams in the NCAA Tournament don’t cash in like their male counterparts.

NCAA President Charlie Baker is hoping that will change as early as next season.

Under the current system, men’s teams that make the tournament are rewarded with financial performance dollars — known as units. It has been estimated that teams in this year’s men’s field can make millions, the value increasing the deeper they go in the tournament.

While nothing has been approved yet, Baker said the finance committee is targeting the 2024-25 season to give women’s teams financial compensation. The NCAA signed a new eight-year deal with ESPN worth $115 million per year for 40 sports.

“We just signed a new contract with ESPN and women’s basketball is a big and important part of that deal,” Baker said Sunday prior to tipoff of the women’s national championship game won by South Carolina. “It will also send a huge signal to women’s basketball generally about the fact you play in the tournament, you do well, you will benefit financially as well as in the other ways.”

The NCAA still needs to figure out how units would be distributed, how much they would be worth and how conferences would be involved. To take effect in time for next year, the proposal would have to be approved in a full Division I membership vote during the NCAA convention in January.

Interest in NCAA women’s hoops has skyrocketed in the past few years. Attendance and viewership are up exponentially. The Final Four game between Iowa and UConn on Friday night drew a record 14.2 million viewers. South Carolina’s 87-75 victory over Iowa in Sunday’s championship game is expected to surpass that number.

Women’s coaches have been asking for years for the system to change as a way to acknowledge the growth of the game. Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley has been a long-time proponent of bringing financial equity to the sport.

“You look at what the 68 teams are going to divide up, I think I saw $170 million between the 68 teams,” Staley said Saturday. “When you start bringing in revenue like that, it will move your campus in a different direction when it comes to women. So we’ve got to fight for that.”



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