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NCAA Expands Women’s Basketball Tournament to 68 Teams

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The N.C.A.A. Division I ladies’s basketball match will develop its subject to 68 groups starting this season, the affiliation introduced on Wednesday, about three months after investigators concluded that school sports activities executives had lengthy prioritized the lads’s competitors.

The choice represents the affiliation’s newest effort to atone for — and transfer past — a self-inflicted debacle this yr, when the N.C.A.A. confronted condemnation for disparities in facilities between its Division I males’s and ladies’s basketball tournaments.

Although the N.C.A.A. had agreed to make some modifications in latest months, reminiscent of utilizing its March Madness branding for the ladies’s match, the growth of the ladies’s match will instantly have an effect on the course of competitors and the experiences of gamers and coaches.

The ladies’s match had used a 64-team bracket since 1994; the lads’s match expanded to 68 groups in 2011.

“This action corrects an inequity that has existed between the men’s and women’s championships for a decade and provides equitable postseason participation opportunities for Division I men’s and women’s basketball student-athletes,” Danielle Donehew, the manager director of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, stated in an announcement launched by the N.C.A.A. “We are making progress in our efforts to address gender inequities in our sport, but much remains to be done.”

The N.C.A.A. stated that it could maintain the brand new opening-round video games within the ladies’s match on school campuses in 2022 however that it could transfer them to a impartial website beginning in 2023, a lot as the lads’s match’s “First Four” showdowns have been performed in Dayton, Ohio. The ladies’s opening-round video games will characteristic groups seeded sixty fifth by 68th and the final 4 at-large groups.

In a report in August, an out of doors regulation agency employed by the N.C.A.A. partly attributed the dearth of growth within the ladies’s match to the affiliation’s organizational construction. But it additionally stated that the expansion of the lads’s match had been partly meant “to maximize the value of the men’s broadcasting rights,” {dollars} which might be the affiliation’s monetary lifeblood.

The tv rights for the lads’s match had been value greater than $850 million this yr and accounted for the overwhelming majority of the affiliation’s anticipated income. Although media consultants consider the ladies’s match may fetch greater than $100 million yearly within the coming years, the competitors is at the moment a part of a $500 million, 14-year package deal that features many different N.C.A.A. occasions.

There had additionally been, the report famous, “no historical consensus” about whether or not growth would profit the ladies’s sport, largely due to the longtime lack of parity. But the report urged the affiliation to enlarge the match swiftly and stated that investigators believed most individuals across the sport had come to help a much bigger competitors.

“In light of the approximately equal number of men’s and women’s basketball teams in Division I, there is no justification for the disparity in tournament participation opportunities,” the report stated.

The 2022 ladies’s match is scheduled to start on March 16, three days after the choice present. The nationwide championship is scheduled to be contested in Minneapolis on April 3.