In a Sunday appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, new NCAA president Charlie Baker faced a legitimate question from Chuck Todd (not exactly the David Frost of Sunday morning television, but here we are) about the impending media rights deal that includes the women’s basketball tournament.
That’s been an understandably big issue in recent weeks and months, with top coaches coming out in favor of the move this March. The last few years have highlighted the need for equity between men’s and women’s athletics, and the women’s basketball deal is currently bundled with the rest of the non-football/men’s basketball sports.
Considering rising fan interest (women’s Final Four viewership was fantastic, thanks in part to Aliyah Boston and South Carolina facing off against Caitlin Clark’s Iowa in a thriller) there’s no better time for the women’s rights to come up for bid, and Baker strongly suggested that the NCAA will be unbundling women’s basketball into its own deal.
Baker really does go about as far as he possibly can to say they’re going to change this practice without saying it outright.
“I think the women’s tournament this year has been sensational, both in terms of viewership but also in terms of quality of play…I think this is definitely something that’s on our radar…the contract is up, we do have an opportunity to put it out separately, and we’re going to work really hard to make sure that those student-athletes, those schools, those programs get what I describe as what they should get.”
This, obviously, is the right approach to take. It’s tough to write about it while giving Baker and the NCAA any real credit, of course. Baker, at least, isn’t a longtime NCAA insider; he was the Republican governor of Massachusetts before taking over for blundering punching bag Mark Emmert.
The NCAA’s move towards equity is certainly overdue, though, and it’s difficult to give them a ton of credit for finally seeming to understand the right decisions to make.
Still, hey, this beats the hell out of not signaling strongly that they’re going to split off the women’s basketball rights. So, kudos.