Equity is a Work in Progress
Women’s collegiate athletics were front and center last week in Minneapolis. The planning team for the 2022 NCAA Women's Final Four was in town to make final preparations for next spring’s events. This group included top NCAA leaders, their corporate partners and event production professionals.
The 2022 Women’s Final Four is particularly important since the last full-fledged event with in-person fans was held in 2019 in Tampa. That was also the year our community hosted the NCAA Men’s Final Four. The NCAA’s Senior Vice President of Basketball, Dan Gavitt, oversees both the men’s and women’s tournaments. He noted that the 2019 Men’s Final Four and 2022 Women’s Final Four serve as the symbolic bookends for the pandemic.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey addressed our NCAA guests during their time here and spoke candidly about the challenges we have faced over the last year and a half, but confidently proclaimed that our community has been galvanized around a common cause of change. That message of change resonated with the NCAA officials as they have grappled with social and economic inequities in collegiate sports.
During the visit, Lynn Holzman, NCAA Vice President for Women’s Basketball, announced that the women’s tournament will now be able to use the venerable March Madness trademark moving forward. Those words and the associated image have long been associated exclusively with the men’s tournament. This is a visual manifestation of the NCAA’s continuing journey toward equity. Lynn’s announcement was on the heels the NCAA External Gender Equity Review that was released in August.
Another outcome of the equity review was the recommendation of co-locating the two tournaments in the same city. This recommendation will not impact our 2022 Women’s Final Four and combining the tournaments will not happen until at least 2027. Minneapolis is one of the few cities with experience in hosting the women’s and men’s tournaments and with the facilities to host both simultaneously.
Anne Clendenin, the NCAA’s leader of Championship Engagement, Marketing and Fan Communications, told the group that Minnesota is the epicenter of women’s basketball. This is an acknowledgment of the fact that women’s professional and collegiate basketball have both flourished in our state. In fact, we were fortunate enough to host the NCAA Women’s Basketball Committee during the site selection visit in 2018 at the same time we were hosting the WNBA All Star Game at Target Center. That certainly helped us to successfully secure the 2022 Women’s Final Four.
With the privilege of hosting the Women’s Final Four during the year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX, our community can join the NCAA in striving for equity in sports and in our broader society.