The men’s tournament, the report said, faced no such scrutiny.
Once players arrived in Indiana and Texas for the tournaments, investigators said, they had vastly different experiences. Food quality varied dramatically, as did lounges for players and gift bags provided to participants. (The N.C.A.A. spent $125.55 per player in the first and second rounds of the men’s tournament on gifts; the association spent $60.42 per player in the early rounds at the women’s tournament.)
And investigators found that tournament organizers devoted far more resources to promoting the men’s tournament.
But the problems that trailed the women’s tournament were, in many respects, years in the making, Kaplan’s team found. The N.C.A.A., for instance, earns money from a corporate sponsorship arrangement that produces substantial revenue exclusively for men’s basketball in Division I. The system, the investigators wrote, requires a prospective sponsor to agree to support all N.C.A.A. championship events, closing off opportunities to companies with smaller marketing budgets.
“There is no space for sponsors who might be interested in sponsoring women’s basketball, but who do not want or cannot afford to buy the required advertising time to support men’s basketball,” the report said. The media rights structure, they added, “contributes to the narrative that women’s basketball is a supposed money loser, and that men’s basketball needs to be prioritized so that it can maximize revenue for the benefit of all N.C.A.A. sports.”
The existing television agreement for the women’s tournament, the report also found, has been a substantial hindrance for women’s basketball. In an 88-page addendum to the report, a sports media firm estimated that the women’s tournament alone could be worth more than $100 million a year beginning in 2025, when the current deal expires.
In the meantime, the firm said, the N.C.A.A. and media partners like CBS, Turner and ESPN could take a series of steps that would “protect the premium value” of the men’s tournament while aiding the “continued development” of the women’s competition. Those options, the report said, include using the “March Madness” brand for both tournaments.