The Gender Disparity in College Basketball: Examining the Differences Between the Men’s and Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournaments

By: Brandon Unverferth

March Madness is an exciting time of year for basketball fans across the country. For the past few weeks, the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Division I Basketball Tournaments have taken center stage, captivating audiences with thrilling games and unforgettable moments. While both tournaments share the same format and the goal of winning a national championship, there are significant differences between the two, particularly in terms of media coverage, facilities, game locations, and financial responsibilities. In this article, I will examine these differences in depth, shedding light on some of the gender disparities that exist in college basketball.

Media Coverage:

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament receives widespread media coverage from major networks such as CBS, TBS, TNT, and TruTV, who pay a hefty sum for the broadcast rights. In contrast, the Women’s Basketball Tournament receives significantly less coverage, with games often relegated to secondary networks (such as ESPNU or ESPN 3) or online streaming platforms. This discrepancy in media coverage has a profound impact on the visibility and popularity of the women’s game, as it limits exposure and makes it harder for fans to follow the tournament. The media coverage also has financial implications, as it affects the amount of revenue generated by the tournaments. The NCAA’s most recent financial report shows that the 2019 Men’s Basketball Tournament generated $867.5 million in revenue, while the Women’s Basketball Tournament generated only $20.9 million. This disparity highlights the need for greater investment in women’s basketball to level the playing field and provide female athletes with the same opportunities as their male counterparts.


Another area where gender disparity is evident is in the facilities provided for the tournaments. The Men’s Basketball Tournament games are typically played in large arenas with ample seating capacity, while the Women’s Basketball Tournament games are often played in smaller venues with limited seating. In addition, the weight rooms provided for the teams during the COVID-19 bubble were vastly different. The men’s weight room was a massive space with numerous machines, while the women’s weight room consisted of a single rack of weights. The discrepancy in facilities is not just a matter of comfort or convenience; it can also impact the performance of the athletes. Playing in front of a large, enthusiastic crowd can provide a boost to players, while cramped or subpar facilities can be an obstruction. The NCAA must work to ensure that both tournaments receive equal treatment when it comes to facilities, providing female athletes with the same resources and opportunities as male athletes.

Game Locations:

Another significant difference between the Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments is the location of the games. With the Men’s Tournament, all games are played on neutral floors, ensuring a fair and balanced playing field for all teams. In contrast, the first two rounds of the Women’s Tournament are played on the home court of the higher-seeded team, meaning that lower-seeded teams must travel to their opponent’s gym to play. This system of hosting games can create an uneven playing field, as the home team enjoys the advantage of familiar surroundings and a friendly crowd. This disadvantage can be particularly significant for lower-seeded teams, who already face an uphill battle in the tournament. The NCAA must address this disparity and ensure that all teams, regardless of gender or seeding, have access to neutral playing fields.

Financial Responsibilities:

The significant difference in financial responsibility between Men’s and Women’s Tournament teams is an issue that is widely unknown by many sports fans. While the NCAA covers the travel expenses for all Men’s Tournament teams, the Women’s Tournament teams are responsible for covering their own travel costs until they reach the Sweet Sixteen. This disparity places an undue burden on some college institutions, as they must find ways to cover travel expenses, which can add up quickly. This also creates an uneven playing field, as teams with more resources may have an advantage over those with fewer resources. This financial disparity highlights the need for the NCAA to provide equal financial support to both men’s and women’s basketball programs.


The NCAA Men’s and Women’s Division I Basketball Tournaments are among the most exciting and highly anticipated sporting events of the year. However, as we have seen, there are significant differences between the two tournaments that highlight the gender disparities that exist in college basketball. From media coverage to facilities, game locations, and financial responsibilities, the differences between the Men’s and Women’s Tournaments are clear and concerning. The NCAA must take steps to address these disparities and provide female athletes with the same opportunities, resources, and support as their male counterparts. By doing so, the NCAA can help to level the playing field and ensure that all athletes, regardless of gender, have the chance to compete at the highest level.

While progress has been made in recent years, there is still much work to be done to achieve gender equality in college sports. By raising awareness of the disparities that exist and advocating for change, we can help to ensure that the next generation of female athletes has the same opportunities and resources as male athletes. As fans and supporters of college basketball, we must continue to push for progress and demand equal treatment for all athletes. Only then can we truly celebrate the magic of March Madness and the amazing achievements of all the athletes who compete in these tournaments.

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