Inequities still exist in March Madness: Women still don’t receive revenue units

Around $200 million is up for grabs on the men’s side of March Madness this year. That is because a revenue distribution model is set up to compensate conferences with teams in the NCAA Tournament. These revenue distribution units are more commonly known as “the unit.”

There are 132 units available this March Madness, each valued at approximately $2 million. The money comes from media rights deals the NCAA strikes with media companies. As per Sportico, the NCAA “recently signed a new eight-year, $920 million TV deal with ESPN to cover its 40 other championships, including the women’s basketball tournament, which has seen a significant uptick in ratings and ticket sales. That new deal will pay the NCAA an average of $115 million per year starting next year, up from the current ESPN deal, which paid $45.2 million in 2023.”

Up to this point and including this year’s tournament, women’s teams are not eligible to receive any units, which means that a team like Dawn Staley’s South Carolina Gamecocks, who have dominated in the tournament year after year, have received zero dollars for their wins. It is no wonder athletic departments were more keen to invest in the men’s side of the game with guaranteed payouts to conferences since each conference is guaranteed at least one unit because every conference champion gets an automatic bid to the tournament.

However, the new media rights deal values women’s March Madness at $65 million annually, which is more than half of the $115 million yearly total ESPN will be paying. That means conferences could begin to be eligible for units for their women’s side of the game.

Units are not paid right away, and individual schools aren’t paid directly for their wins. Instead, the money is paid to the conferences, which can allocate it evenly among member schools or in a way they deem equitable. The money is paid out to conferences over six years.

Money is paid out based on performance in the tournament, which begs the question: Isn’t this just pay-for-play? The NCAA’s oft-used battlecry is “amateurism,” but with each day that passes, more legal arguments abound as to why that model illegally restrains trade in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

What the NCAA actually means by prohibiting any sort of pay-for-play is that they do not want the athletes to receive any sort of pay for their performance. However, the NCAA is more than comfortable with schools and conferences reaping the rewards of their athletes or in other words, reaping the rewards of their workers.

Story originally appeared on Rookie Wire