Separated by nearly 1,000 miles and decades of fragmentation, the NCAA will stage an eight-team, four-day, two-city college basketball carnival starting Friday.
This was always the case in Final Fours. And for all the changes that followed the hype last year about inequality between the NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments, don’t expect that approach to change for at least a decade.
The decision, made over the winter after deliberations by a series of NCAA committees, defied a recommendation in August by a law firm hired by the association to examine its approach to championship events. But it was also in keeping with the college sports industry’s long reluctance to bring men’s and women’s events closer together geographically.
“Every coach I spoke to was in the fourth final – and I spoke to quite a few after the report came out – no one said we should have four finals in the same place,” said Gino Orima. , the Connecticut coach who earned the huskies in the 14th straight women’s final.
The women will play in Minneapolis this year, and the men will compete in New Orleans.
The idea of merging the roster of games and turning one city into a mall for college basketball each spring has permeated intermittently over the 40 years since the women’s tournament first launched.
The idea gained new currency in August when a law firm hired by the NCAA released a report concluding that the union had long prioritized the men’s championship and its revenue. Bringing men’s and women’s events to the same city “ensures that the student-athlete experience in men’s and women’s tournaments is more equitable,” the report emphasized.
That possibility seemed far-fetched to some executives, particularly because the NCAA had already chosen the host cities for both final tournaments through 2026. The decision in February, which NCAA officials said was unanimous, was for events to remain separate over the following day. Bidding cycle to host tournaments – making changes unlikely until at least 2032.
Executives, however, said they are considering other potential adjustments, such as holding competitions on separate weekends, that could put more light on women’s basketball. For now, though, NCAA leaders said they were skeptical of upending decades of tradition.
“It was important at this time for the committee to see the results of the improvements and other investments that have been made in the tournament and to salute or continue to honor what has already been built around the Final Four Women’s with NCAA Women’s Basketball Association vice president, Lynne Holzman, said Wednesday.
“Food ninja. Friendly thinker. Explorer. Entrepreneur. Zombie junkie.