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NCAA Gender Equity Audit on Men’s and Women’s Hockey Tournaments

NCAA HOCKEY: MAR 19 Women’s - Division I Championship - Wisconsin v Clarkson Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last summer, in the wake of a viral TikTok video highlighting the massive disparities in spending between the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, the NCAA commissioned an audit of gender equity in the NCAA and the differences between men’s and women’s championship tournaments.

Phase II of that audit was released on Tuesday evening, and included a passage comparing how the NCAA conducts the men’s ice hockey tournament versus how they conduct the women’s hockey tournament.

The results are not that surprising, at least to anyone who has seen both tournaments. But seeing all the differences laid out in one place, with exact numerical differences is still stark. When broken down, the NCAA spent about $9805 per player in the men’s hockey tournament in 2019, compared to just $3421 per player in the women’s tournament.

The audit, I think, is fair to point out some of the structural differences that lead to some of these differences. There are more men’s teams, leading to a larger tournament(although proportionally, the men’s tournament is still bigger), and the men’s Frozen Four is played a an NHL arena, which requires more resources.

But the main thrust of the audit, both for hockey specifically and for other sports in general, is that the NCAA seems to rely on the idea that because the men’s tournament produces more revenue, it is worth investing more money in, while the women’s tournament is not. And that lack of investment becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Probably the most telling comparison in the section was the men’s tournament spending $193,000 spent on marketing the men’s tournament, compared to just $11,000 for the women’s tournament. It’s no secret that that heavy marketing push for the 2019 Frozen Four was because ticket sales for Buffalo were, and ended up being, abysmal. And given the increased marketing push in 2020 for Detroit before the event had to be cancelled, it would not be surprising to learn that gap had increased significantly since then. So it’s not just a matter of money being spent to meet some overwhelming demand. It’s a matter of desire. And right now, there doesn’t seem to be a desire from the NCAA to give the women’s tournament a fair opportunity to grow, despite growing evidence elsewhere in the women’s sports world that that type of investment can begin to pay dividends.

In any case, it’s an interesting read that touches on a lot of issues that will need to be addressed in the college hockey world in the near future—specifically tournament size, tournament venues, and the like—and provides some interesting perspective and hard numbers that are very much worth considering.