Conversations regarding inequalities in sports are not new, but the current NCAA Tournaments added to those discussions when photos and videos of the women's much smaller workout spaces than their male counterparts vent viral. Now the NCAA is opening up about the financial aspects behind the decision making that led to those disparities after it upgraded the training facilizes at the women's tournament and opened an independent gender-equity review into its practices.
One explanation for the disparities between facilities could be the budgets for the tournaments, according to ESPN. The NCAA says the reasons for some of the budget differences for the 2019 tournaments -- the last year regular tournaments were played, and for which data is available -- is because of the women's format, where first and second round games are played on campus with each of the top four seeds in the regionals hosting its own pod, as opposed to neutral sites for the men's tournament.
Other financial differences come from money used in the men's tournament for the First Four, which is not part of the women's tournament, and also money for facilities, with the men's Final Four being played in an NFL stadium that seats more than 70,000 and the women's Final Four being played in arenas built for basketball with around 20,000 seats.
Kathleen McNeely, the chief financial officer of the NCAA, explained the money differences between tournament to ESPN.
"They have different budgets, but the difference in the budgets is because of the scale of the two tournaments ... and the nuances in the delivery, which tend to be committee decisions on how they're going to deliver those championships," she said. "I'm not saying there might not be minor issues, but in my opinion, there is a lot of parity between the men's and women's basketball tournaments as we look at it from an individual student-athlete experience, which tends to be our focus."
According to ESPN, the 2018-19 NCAA Division I men's tournament had a budget of $28 million, nearly double the women's $14.5 million budget. On Friday, the NCAA provided information that showed the men's tournament brought in a total net income of $864.6 million that season, while the women's event lost $2.8 million.
The NCAA says their budgets are approved each year and they have changed due to the pandemic. It is estimated that it cost $14 million to carry out the men's tournament in Indianapolis and $16 million for the women's tournament in San Antonio, though those numbers will not be exact until the tournaments conclude.
McNeely said they set aside the same amount of money for COVID-19 tests for the men and women, which comes out to around $2 million each.
The women are getting daily antigen testing, while the men are using daily PCR tests, which are considered more accurate tests. UConn coach Geno Auriemma pointed out the difference to reporters earlier in the month.
NCAA president Mark Emmert has said there is no risk difference between the two tests, but according to the Food and Drug Administration, antigen tests "have a higher chance of missing an active infection."
While people may point to the women's tournament not generating money, they are far from the only tournament that does not bring in the cash. Out of 90 NCAA championships, only five generate revenue.