Some Thoughts and Reading on Women’s NCAA Sports

I’ve been thinking a lot about women’s sports in the past few weeks. No real surprise here: we’re discussing the topic in one of my classes this week and the NCAA women’s basketball tournament has been flat-out fantastic. Tournament time inevitably focuses our attention on the good and the bad of college sports: see the annual referendum on athlete compensation as we watch unpaid “amateurs” compete for hours in between endless advertisements. This year, the inequities between the men’s and women’s tournaments got much needed attention, in no small part due to the social media efforts of Sedona Prince. Here she is lampooning the ridiculous women’s “weight room” and here she is chronicling the “food” situation. (and here’s an excellent piece on her journey, hard not to root for her.)

I have thoughts and things to share:

  • For more on the NCAA’s embarrassing showing, I really like Sally Jenkins, who pulls exactly 0 punches. This one is great, as is this one. I particularly like her opening in the second one: The NCAA’s handling of the women’s basketball tournament is either malpractice or malfeasance. When it comes to the NCAA, why not both?
  • A related conversation that’s been thrust into the spotlight: the women’s tournament cannot use the marketing term “March Madness.” Only men can make madness, apparently. I generally understand arguments surrounding things like “brand dilution,” but come on. Here’s a decent piece on this absurdity.
  • In a related bit of indignity, one of the dumbest arguments against paying college athletes is that doing so will somehow “hurt” female athletes. As you can see from the above, the NCAA is of course very concerned with taking care of the women. But then there’s this graphic from Axios, with data from Openendorse:

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  • So what do we have here? Projected earnings potential for athletes still in the tournament, if they were able to monetize their Name-Image-Likeness. Couple things: yes, the remaining men’s teams are star-light and yes, converting follower counts to estimated earnings is a shaky metric at best. But you know what I don’t see here? Harm to female athletes. Let ’em get paid!
  • And finally, there’s the classic bit about all of the above being justified because “people just don’t watch women’s sports.” This is not totally off-base, but is incomplete. I’ll be back later this week with more on this, but for now, I’ll leave these here (via Zoomph and ESPN):

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