For decades, the college basketball Final Four, the much hyped semi-final and championship weekend, only referred to the men’s tournament. It’s not that women’s college basketball didn’t have an equivalent — theirs was just referred to as the Women’s Final Four (emphasis ours). The tournament, by default, was all about men.
Now, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has changed its Twitter and Instagram handles for the Men’s Final Four tournament. The logos for the Men’s Final Four tournament in New Orleans have also been altered.
The NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Twitter and Instagram also added March Madness to their usernames on Wednesday, after the organization announced last September that it would advertise and brand the women’s championship as part of March Madness for the first time.
The changes follow a gender equity review of the NCAA undertaken last year by a law firm retained to investigate issues stemming from the March 2021 championships. Women athletes at the tournament posted about equipment disparities between their weight rooms and the men’s weight rooms, receiving smaller portions of poorer quality than the men’s teams, and having limited access to PCR tests, the gold standard in coronavirus testing, as men received daily swabs.
The firm’s review called for the NCAA to make all promotional efforts and branding for the men and women’s competitions the same. It also urged the NCAA to combine the men’s and women’s Final Fours into a tournament held in the same city, adding that the majority of women’s basketball players they asked about the solution were in favor of trying it.
The gender equity review by the law firm, Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, also found that signage and branding for the women’s and men’s tournaments have continued to have stark differences through the years — with over $1.5 million more spent on ads for the Men’s Final Four last year than the women’s competition. The report also criticized the organization’s previous decision not to advertise the NCAA Division I Women’s championship with the March Madness logo — which NCAA began doing in September, one month after the first part of the review was released.
“This is just the start when it comes to improving gender equity in the way the two Division I basketball championships are conducted,” Lisa Campos, chair of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee and director of athletics at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said in a press release at the time. UTSA and other colleges in the area around San Antonio helped host the 2021 women’s championship.
The NCAA is updating its championships branding “to be more gender inclusive, including the changes you see reflected in the Final Four logos and the expanded use of ‘March Madness’ to women’s basketball,” NCAA spokesperson Meghan Durham said via email. The change stemmed from the gender equity review and a simultaneous brand review, she said.