NCAA’s second gender equity report shows great gender disparity

Phase II of the review supports the persistent gaps between male & female sports

A photo of a USC volleyball player approaching a set at the net.

The second NCAA gender report showed that the NCAA spends more on men’s sports than women’s sports. As clear and persistent an issue as it is, there still has not been sufficient change, with more and more evidence supporting this claim. The report conducted by the law firm, Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP was issued Monday and showcases the spending disparities.

This report outlines the great gender gap in spending between sports, but also includes implications for efforts to close this gap.

“The climate is such that we’re recognizing how student athletes have been unfairly restricted,” said Jeff Fellenzer, professor of sport at USC. “What the report pointed out is, if you’re not one of those revenue generating sports — which came down to most all women’s sports — you’re kind of just fighting for crumbs.”

Kaplan Hecker & Fink found that the NCAA spent $4,285 per men’s participant versus $2,588 per women’s participant, and even greater disparity in single-gender sports like wrestling or beach volleyball.

“The information isn’t really shocking but I feel like it’s still unfair,” said Cam Dillon, a 2021 alum from USC’s women’s rowing team. “Women work just as hard putting in 20-40 hours per week in and out of our respective sports.”

Though the numbers in the report are staggering, the issue of gender inequality within college sports is nothing new.

In 1972, The Title IX of Education Amendment was implemented as a means to combat this matter, stating that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Although the amendment is reaching its 50th anniversary in 2022, much progress has yet to be made.

Although this issue directly impacts female athletes, men’s sports play just as important a role in achieving equality within the NCAA and across all levels of play.

“It’s important for guys to advocate and be the biggest fans for the women’s side,”said Elijah Olaniyi, member of the men’s basketball team at Stony Brook University. “Then, I feel like the rest of the world will follow along.”

With COVID-19 putting much of the sports world on hold this past year, there has been more of an effort to highlight and support women’s sports, but still not nearly enough.

The 2021 March Madness tournament displayed how much work truly needs to be done to level the playing field. University of Oregon basketball player, Sedona Prince, documented a viral Tiktok at the tournament highlighting the differences in men’s and women’s weight rooms. Her caption read, “It’s 2021 and we are still fighting for bits and pieces of equality.” Women’s basketball players also received box meals compared to a buffet for the men’s teams. The women were also given gift sets far more scarce compared to their male counterparts.

“We’re juggling all this external pressure and added stress since we don’t have as many resources as I would say that the football or basketball teams receive.” Dillon said. “A lot of female student athletes fall between the cracks and it goes far beyond the financial politics of sports.”

From differential treatment to exposure and resources, sports can be seen as a reflection of the society we live in. It reflects the biases and discrimination against women in all fields. This can create detrimental impacts for female athletes not only financially, but also emotionally or physically.

“Society has a lot of stigmas and stereotypes we’re still trying to break,” said Olaniyi. “When it comes to sports, those stigmas usually come to light.”

The gender report included ways in which the NCAA can, and should, reform.

In this current state of media — as seen with Sedona Prince’s TikTok — institutions including the NCAA are being held accountable now more than ever. Among several ideas, Kaplan Hecker & Fink suggested getting rid of gender modifiers on branding tournaments along with improving the structure of overall gender equity oversight by increasing the number of senior staff.

“There’s still work to be done in these institutions,” said Dillon. “It goes beyond just funding or playing male sports more on networks. All of this has a bigger picture for women’s sports.”