U.S. House members introduce bill aimed at gender equity for NCAA championships, programs

Three members of the U.S. House of Representatives announced Thursday that they have introduced legislation that would create a Congressional commission to “conduct a comprehensive study of gender equity” in the NCAA’s championships and governance policies.

The bill is being sponsored by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., who is co-chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus, and Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J.

According to a news release issued through the Oversight and Reform Committee, the proposed commission’s work would include:

► "An in-depth analysis of NCAA treatment of men’s and women’s teams in postseason tournaments and other student-athlete programs including venues and equipment provided for games and practices; lodging and transportation; media contracts; licensees, sponsors, and other fulfillment partners who deliver essential elements of the tournaments; and overall budgets.”

► "An analysis of (the) NCAA’s constitution and policies that affect gender equity between men’s and women’s college sports teams.”

► "An overview of federal government support for NCAA and recommendations for improved federal oversight of NCAA’s promotion of gender equity.”

The commission would issue a report 12 to 18 months after its formation, the news release said, and it would make recommendations about policies that the NCAA “should adopt to promote equity between men’s and women’s programs and reforms Congress should consider to improve oversight of gender equity across NCAA programs.” 

The bill comes two weeks after Maloney, Speier and Sherillreleased a letter they sent to NCAA President Mark Emmert in which they criticized him and the association for how they have reacted to an outside review of NCAA championships that the association commissioned in the wake of controversy about the treatment of women’s players during last year’s NCAA basketball tournaments.

Thursday’s news release said the NCAA “has ignored or rejected key recommendations from this external review and has failed to adequately implement systems to identify, prevent and address gender inequities.”

It also comes in the same week Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., announced a bill that would create a series requirements for NCAA investigations of rules violations – a bill similar to one introduced in the House last November by David Kustoff, R-Tenn.

On Wednesday, during a news conference at the women’s basketball Final Four in Minneapolis, Emmert and Lynn Holzman, the NCAA’s vice president for women’s basketball, discussed a variety of recent changes by the NCAA that were aimed at improving conditions and the atmosphere surrounding the women’s basketball tournament.

Emmert said “we’re seeing some really great steps in that direction,” but also said: “We certainly still know that we've got a ways to go. This is not a finished task or anything remotely close to it. But in the time that was available and the resources that we're able to put in, I think you'll all be able to see and recognize there's a fair amount of changes that have occurred.”

Emmert said the NCAA was beginning to look at how to proceed as its contract with ESPN that bundles TV rights to the women’s basketball tournament with many other NCAA championship through 2024, including whether to split off some sports. He added that there have been preliminary conversations within the membership about whether to create a revenue distribution to conferences and schools based on teams’ performance in the women’s basketball tournament, as is the case with the men’s tournament.  

Emmert also mentioned the ongoing changes in the NCAA’s governance structure that began with the member schools’ approval of a new constitution for the organization and will be continuing with a restructuring of rules for, and potentially the organization of, the top-level Division I.

“One of the prominent features of that (new) constitution is an emphasis on gender equity across all of our championships and the requirement that schools take very seriously their commitment to gender equity,” Emmert said.

On Wednesday, USA TODAY reported that there have been significant disparities in the amounts that Football Bowl Subdivision schools spend on travel, equipment and recruiting for women’s teams compared to the amounts they spend in those areas for men’s teams in similar sports.