The NCAA men’s basketball tournament typically has the national spotlight when it reaches the Final Four, with the best teams – or luckiest – to have survived March Madness playing the final games to determine a national champion.
Now imagine how it could look with the women’s tournament bringing its Final Four to the same city on the same weekend.
The idea of a combined Final Four sounds attractive as a showcase for Division I college basketball and it is also one of the key recommendations in a scathing report examining how the NCAA conducts its championship events when it comes to gender equity.
The review by Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP came after the NCAA failed to provide similar amenities to the teams in the men’s and women’s Division I basketball tournaments earlier this year, a situation that led to apologies from NCAA executives.
The idea behind a combined Final Four is this: have the men’s and women’s tournaments wind up in a single location, potentially increasing the sponsorship and promotional opportunities to help grow the women’s game. That would be a way to remedy a system that thus far, according to the report, has been “designed to maximize the value and support” for the men’s tournament as the NCAA’s primary revenue-producting event.
“Put simply,” the review states, “without combining the Final Fours, the women’s championship will continue to have a different look and feel from the men’s championship” until the NCAA’s multimedia agreement with CBS and Turner to carry the tournament expires in 2032.
That makes sense to Kirk Wakefield, a professor of retail marketing at Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business.
“The research I’ve done for years shows that the physical facilities and environment that you’re having any event matters: the venue location, the attractiveness, the whole experience for sure matters,” Wakefield said. “So if they are demonstrably different, then people respond to that.”
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