Evaluating the Disparity Between the Men’s and Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournaments

By Pierce Lapham

Just over a week ago, Ali Kershner, Stanford University’s sports and performance coach of Women’s Basketball, posted an image comparing the men’s and women’s weight training facilities at the NCAA Tournament. While the men had a variety of benches, squat racks, plates, dumbbells, barbells and more, the women only had access to a few yoga mats and a single dumbbell rack with no weights over 30 lbs. 

Source: Ali Kershner – Instagram 

Very quickly, complaints and criticism of the NCAA dominated social media. Several high profile athletes shared their thoughts on the situation, such as Steph Curry who took to twitter to say “wow-come on now! @marchmadness @NCAA y’all trippin trippin.” As the movement spread more images of the difference in amenities between men and women were revealed. Photos of their differing food and merchandise also came out, both of which emphasized the existing situation (refer below for those images). In order to understand why things like this are still happening, let’s examine the difference between the men’s and women’s tournament.

Source: AJ McCord – Twitter (Original Tweet) 

Here are some of the important financial metrics related to the tournament for both the men and women. As you can see, the data represents this year’s tournament along with the most recent pre-covid tournament in 2019.

2019 Tournament
Statistics Men’s Women’s
Budget $28M (season) $14.5M (season)
Revenue $917.8M $15.1M
Attendance 690,000 fans 275,000 fans
TV Contract $900M – yearly avg. $5.7M – yearly avg.
2021 Tournament
Statistics Men’s Women’s
Budget $14M $16M
Revenue N/A N/A
Attendance N/A N/A
TV Contract N/A N/A

Other statistics: 

● The men’s tournament pays for nearly every other NCAA championship aside from 4 

● The women’s tournament lost 2.8 million dollars in 2019, the largest loss of any NCAA championship. Although, of the 90 NCAA championships only 5 are profitable 

The statistics make it clear that the men’s tournament is significantly more profitable and thus more valuable to the NCAA. The men’s tournament pulls in roughly 250% more fans, just over 6000% more revenue, has a TV contract worth just under 16000% more (2019) and helps pay for nearly every other championship. In addition, according to the American Gaming Association roughly 70 million brackets were made for the men’s tournament and an estimated 8-10 billion dollars is bet during the tournament. Therefore the men’s tournament is more profitable and it garners a lot more attention. But, does that justify the men having significantly better amenities and treatment? The answer is no. 

The NCAA does not run professional sports leagues, they are collegiate leagues. The purpose of college athletics is to develop athletes of all kinds and provide them with an education. Obviously money is important to the organization and helps it carry out its business, but it isn’t central to its operations. If money was the driving force behind the organization it wouldn’t host the 85/90 championships that aren’t profitable. In regard to the amenities specifically, the NCAA makes more than enough money on the men’s tournament that it can afford to spend an extra hundred thousand dollars on the women’s accommodations. In the example of the weight training facilities, maybe you don’t need to give the women a massive warehouse packed with gym equipment like the men, because at the end of the day the men’s tournament is vital to the livelihood of the organization, but they should at least be given a lot more than a couple yoga mats and dumbells. Therefore, despite the fact that the men’s and women’s tournaments have distinct financial differences, they should be granted similar amenities because they are organized under the same umbrella and the purpose of college athletics is not to maximize profits but instead to develop athletes and provide them with a quality education. 

The NCAA has since upgraded the women’s weight training facilities, provided more transparency regarding the financial aspects of their tournament and opened an

independent gender-equity review into its practices. All of these are steps in the right direction towards equality in sports and hopefully mistakes like this won’t happen again. 


“Amount of Money Bet on NCAA Bracket Pools & Games.” 2017. Betfirm.com. 2017. https://www.betfirm.com/money-bet-march-madness/. 

Bushnell, Henry. 2021. “NCAA Reveals Budget, Revenue Gulfs between Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments.” Yahoo.com. Yahoo Finance. March 26, 2021. https://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/ncaa-revenue-budget-march-madness-mens-womens basketball-tournaments-202859329.html#:~:text=The%202019%20men’s%20tournament %2C%20the,%242.8%20million%20in%20net%20losses.. 

“NCAA Explains Budget Disparities between Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments in New Report.” 2021. CBSSports.com. March 26, 2021. https://www.cbssports.com/college-basketball/news/ncaa-explains-budget-disparities-bet ween-mens-and-womens-basketball-tournaments-in-new-report/. 

Dinich, Heather. 2021. “NCAA Budget for Men’s Basketball Tournament Almost Twice as Much as Women’s Budget.” ESPN.com. ESPN. March 26, 2021. 

https://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/31141363/ncaa-budget-men-ba sketball-tournament-almost-twice-much-women-budget. 

“Men’s and Women’s NCAA March Madness Facilities, Separate and Unequal, Spark Uproar.” 2021. NPR.org. March 19, 2021. 

https://www.npr.org/2021/03/19/979395795/mens-and-womens-ncaa-march-madness-fac ilities-separate-and-unequal-spark-uproar. 

Feinberg, Doug. 2021. “Differences in Men’s, Women’s Weight Rooms in NCAA Bubble Prompts Questions of Inequity.” CBC. March 20, 2021. 

https://www.cbc.ca/sports/basketball/ncaa-womens-tournament-weight-room-inequity-1.5 955816.