NCAA President Addresses Gender Equity: 'Can't Let Down These Amazing Athletes Ever Again'

NCAA president Mark Emmert is addressing the major budget gap between its men's and women's college basketball tournaments, admitting they "dropped the ball."

After recent controversy about the differences between the two tournaments, the NCAA announced last week that a law firm will conduct an equity review of its events, the findings of which will likely be released this summer. During a Wednesday press conference, Emmert spoke about making meaningful changes to ensure equity across all sports.

"How do we make up for those shortcomings from this day going forward and create the kind of gender equity we all talk about to make sure it's a reality and not just language? We have to do that. I have to do that," he said, according to USA Today. "We can't let down these amazing athletes ever again."

"While the gender equity review we need to do has to begin and focus on women's basketball, it's not going to be only about women's basketball. Women's basketball, like men's basketball, those are the two marquee sports for the NCAA championships, and if you don't get those right, you're not going to get anything right and my commitment to that is unequivocal," added Emmert.

"It has to be gender equity across the board," he said.

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Earlier this month, the NCAA provided ESPN and the New York Times with previous tournament budgets for the first time, which showed a $13.5 million budget gap between its men's and women's tournaments.

As the 2019-2020 basketball season was canceled due to COVID-19, NCAA officials were only able to provide the most recent set of completed data from the 2018-2019 season.

The financial summary, which was obtained by PEOPLE, showed that the budget for the men's tournament for the 2018-2019 season was $28 million while the women's was $14.5 million. The men's tournament brought in a total net income of $864.6 million that season while the women's tournament lost $2.8 million, which was the largest loss of any NCAA championship.

The NCAA, however, cites "key differences in tournament structures" for the women's lower costs. These differences, which account for the gap of $7.1 million, include less travel, per diem rates, an additional round (the men's tournament includes a First Four round), and additional facility costs.

The NCAA summary also showed major differences in total revenue: the men's tournament generated $917.8 million while the women's brought in $15.1 million, both including media and ticket revenue.

News of the budgets comes after the recent controversy surrounding the differences in training areas provided for the men's and women's teams participating in the 2021 NCAA Basketball Tournament.

The men's and women's tournaments are taking place over the next few weeks with "limited" fan attendance at games due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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