The NCAA is acknowledging a major budget gap between its men's and women's basketball tournaments, sparking increased conversation about the organization's gender disparities.
Following the recent controversy surrounding the differences between the two tournaments, the NCAA released a statement on Thursday announcing that a law firm will be conducting an equity review of its events, which will likely be released this summer.
"The NCAA will continue to aggressively address material and impactful differences between the Division I Men's and Women's Basketball Championship," NCAA president Mark Emmert wrote. "As part of this effort, we are evaluating the current and previous resource allocation to each championship, so we have a clear understanding of costs, spend and revenue."
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.
NCAA Women's Basketball/Twitter
These differences, that 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.
"They have different budgets, but the difference in the budgets is because of the scale of the two tournaments," Kathleen McNeely, the NCAA's chief financial officer, told ESPN on Friday. "I'm not saying there might not be minor issues, but in my opinion, there is a lot of parity between the men's and women's basketball tournaments as we look at it from an individual student-athlete experience, which tends to be our focus."
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.
"The men's tournament is just a larger tournament: 690,000 fans compared to 275,000 in 2019," McNeely told the Times. "That kind of a difference is going to bring in a lot of little costs that are going to drive the difference."
Last Thursday, University of Oregon star Sedona Prince posted a video to social media that compared the equipment the NCAA provided for the women's and men's championships, which started last week in Texas for the women and in Indiana for the men.
Prince's video appears to show that the women's training area was only provided with six pairs of dumbbells of varying weights, while the men's area was furnished with numerous training racks, bars, plates, dumbbells and benches.
The women were provided an updated weight room, which has all the equipment one would expect for athletes competing at the most important college basketball event of the year, including heavier weights, as shown in a video of sports reporter Holly Rowe touring the facility.
Amid the backlash, NCAA Senior Vice President of basketball Dan Gavitt apologized for the controversy and Vice President of women's basketball Lynn Holzman, admitted the organization "fell short."
"I'm a former women's basketball student athlete and it's always been my priority to make this event the best possible experience for everyone involved," Holzman said in a video statement. "This is my passion — I care about women's basketball and women in sport. We fell short this year in what we've been doing to prepare in the last 60 days for 64 teams to be here in San Antonio and we acknowledge that."
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.