How the ladies’ NCAA basketball tournament has changed in one year from just an incredibly revealing tweet

That was when teammate Destanni Henderson jumped in. “Time to dance,” Henderson said.

The two laughed and Boston admitted. “Time to dance,” she said. “I’m taking it back.”

Time to dance. It’s a phrase that resonates with special emotions this time of year, only useful when your team hits a ticket to the Big Dance, and books a tour of the nationwide basketball celebration otherwise known as the NCAA Tournament. You may know it better as March Madness, but as recently as a year ago, that phrase was only licensed for the men’s tournament. Understanding why this has changed is, with all due respect to Boston, a very important reason to look back.

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While Boston and her teammates in South Carolina take their overall top ranking and No. 1 seed in their region and try to dance their way to the school’s second national title (they won in 2017), it’s actually very important that the sport returns to the viral. moments a year ago that led to a lot of changes from that tournament to this one.

It was 22:26 on March 18, 2021 when Oregon striker Sedona Prince posted the tweet that shook the basketball world and told about a Tik Tok video she had made where she compared the weight room options for the women’s tournament compared to the men’s.

Now remembering that the two tournaments were played in similar bubbles necessary for covid, Prince revealed the NCAA’s extreme double standards and shared sweeping images of men’s large and well-filled weight room versus the small shelf of dumbbells and yoga mats available for women.

As she concluded, “If you’re not upset about this problem, you’re part of it.”

The reaction was rapid and far-reaching, with further injustice in everything from swagbags to “March Madness” designations to inferior food options that were revealed in what felt like a quick and fantastic consequence.

Even the NCAA’s infamous slow-moving, labyrinthine internal operations managed to respond with concern, which quickly improved the supply and conditions of the women’s team. But it was not enough – it was as if a conversation that was held for a long time behind closed doors and in quieter, frustrated tones was torn up for everyone to join, and it was one that started for a new generation of young female athletes to use their voices, and reinforced them through social media.

A year later, the discussion continues, part of the joy of progress made in one year, seen in the simple optics of using the March Madness logo or the simple parallel of increasing the field to 68 teams to match the men, some of it still aims to address other differences, such as how the revenue from the lucrative basketball month is distributed to conferences and schools.

The NCAA initiated a series of upgrades on the women’s side, much of it in response to the scathing report from the company Kaplan Hecker & Fink, which had been commissioned to investigate last year’s debacle. The 114-page conclusion showed sharp spending differences in everything from marketing and marketing to player meals to event staffing and more.

“It was good to see those decisions made quickly, but to that point, there are still some changes that need to be made,” said Amy Perko, president of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. “It questions why they have not changed the distribution of revenue yet. It is the only change we have been talking about for a long time now, financial incentives affect financing priorities and they affect behaviors.

“And the NCAA March Madness Tournament generates significant funding, $ 600 million, which the NCAA distributes, and 28 percent of that distribution is based on how the men’s team performs in the tournament. The Knights Commission has said that each national distribution, “Ideally, it should be gender-equal. If it is to reward athletic success, it must reward athletic success for men’s and women’s teams. At present, women’s teams are not part of any type of performance-based distribution. This is an issue that needs to be addressed.”

Her score is so important. And there are more similar. Although no one would argue that women’s television rights, viewing figures or revenue are about to compete with what men get from CBS, the fact that women’s package with ESPN is still part of a now 20-year rollover contract that lumps it together. With all other non-revenue championship sports are extreme. That will change soon, with estimates of million-dollar packages for the independent right to broadcast the women’s tournament, not surprising given how much the tournament has grown in popularity.

One of the changes this year was also to move the ladies’ selection show to Sunday, at the same time as the men’s. It can be risky, with women falling into the shadows, but reality seems to show enough enthusiasm to go around. According to ESPN, the program averaged more than 1.1 million viewers, an increase of 160 percent from a year ago.

So much has changed from a year ago, when a viral tweet began with Stanford’s performance coach Ali Kershner and then exploded with Prince’s major followers on social media.

“I do not think there is any doubt that last year was an eye opener,” said Nicki Collen, coach of Baylor, a No. 2 seed in this tournament. “And that’s probably the beauty of social media. There’s a lot of negativity with social media, but I think what started this is good for women’s basketball. And started a story about how valuable the women’s tournament is to the NCAA and how it should be treated as such. .

“I think it’s good for women’s basketball. And, you know, if it was required that players called them out and – because I think it’s hard in this first and second round to compare apples to apples. [women’s games are hosted at member schools with men’s games at neutral sites]. But last year when we talked about two bubble scenarios, like you compared apples and apples and they were not.

“I’m excited to see how our tournament grows as a result.

Tara Sullivan is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at tara.sullivan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Globe_Tara.

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