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Terps

The NCAA will include women’s basketball under the ‘March Madness’ brand. Maryland coach Brenda Frese says ‘it’s about time’.

When longtime Maryland women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese learned that the NCAA would now use “March Madness” branding and marketing for its Division I women’s basketball tournament, her first thought was: “It’s about time.”

The college sports organizing body announced the long-awaited change Wednesday, beginning with the 2022 tournament. Previously, the NCAA preserved its billion-dollar brand exclusively for its men’s tournament. A 115-page external gender equity report conducted over the summer included a recommendation that the money-making “March Madness” moniker include the women under its umbrella.

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“This is something that has been long overdue and probably a no-brainer,” Frese said. “But it’s nice to be able to see from the external review that they did of the gender equity issues that they’ve been able to take some positive things and really move them into a great direction for women’s basketball.”

The NCAA’s differential treatment between its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments sparked controversy this past spring when images and TikTok videos surfaced from women’s players and reporters highlighting the contrasts in quality, from weight rooms to care packages to coronavirus testing. The revelations caused outrage on social media and put a fire under the NCAA to make promises of doing better.

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One of those players was Maryland’s Angel Reese (St. Frances), who spoke about lesser accommodations given to the women on Instagram.

“That’s where you want to see young people be able to use their platform through athletics to make a difference,” Frese said.

With so much else to focus on and prepare for during the tournaments, Frese never really dwelled on the lack of “March Madness” logos during the tournaments in years past, as bothersome as it might have been.

The NCAA women's basketball tournament will use March Madness in marketing and branding beginning this season. Using the phrase, which has been associated with the men's tournament for years, was one of the recommendations from an external review of gender equity issues of the tournaments that was released in August.

“I don’t think it needs to be defined as women’s basketball,” Frese said.

Actually, what bothers the Terps coach more is “One Shining Moment.”

After the conclusion of the men’s basketball championship each year, the tournament’s video team puts together a visual summary of the journey from 68 teams to one champion, to the tune of “One Shining Moment,” a song written by David Barrett nearly 40 years ago about the tournament.

It’s poetic, grand and includes practically every major moment. The song speaks in gender-neutral terms, just saying “you.”

But the video isn’t made for the women.

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“That’s more where I get [frustrated],” Frese said.

The 2019 NCAA “March Madness” tournament generated more than $1 billion for the NCAA, according to CNBC. The NCAA budget for the men’s tournament in 2019 ($28 million) nearly doubled that of the women’s tournament, ESPN reported in March.

The NCAA will now start from scratch each year to determine how much it will budgetfor the men’s and women’s tournaments, rather than basing it on the previous fiscal year.

The change will “show where justifiable differences in the allocation of championship financial resources exist and are appropriate, with an eye toward increasing opportunities for planning collaboration and cross-promotion, as well as making the two championships more financially equitable,” per an NCAA release.

“These women deserve it,” Frese said. “It’s an opportunity now to be able to showcase these teams and these programs in the national spotlight.”

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Maryland coach Brenda Frese celebrates with her team following a win over Iowa at the Big Ten Conference tournament on March 13, 2021, in Indianapolis.

Frese said it’ll become clear when the tournaments resume next spring whether the NCAA will follow through on its promises of equity.

“I think when you start to see consistent steps. This is a step in the right direction,” Frese said. “We’ll be able to tell throughout this NCAA tournament the way it feels and the different things that take place around us. You’ll definitely be able to see things moving in the right direction.”

The tournament and oversight committees will now also hold “regular” joint meetings to “collaborate and ensure alignment” between the two events. The NCAA’s Division I Council also created committees within the governing body to analyze recommendations from the gender equity report.

“This is just the start when it comes to improving gender equity in the way the two Division I basketball championships are conducted,” said Lisa Campos, chair of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee and Athletic Director at the University of Texas at San Antonio. “Adding the ‘March Madness’ trademark to the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship will enhance the development and public perception of the sport.”

Campos added that the oversight committee “looks forward” to addressing other recommendations to bridge the divide between men’s and women’s basketball.


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