NEW ORLEANS — South Carolina and Connecticut play Sunday for the national championship at the Women’s Final Four in Minneapolis, a matchup of high-profile programs and Hall of Fame coaches with Virginia connections — UConn’s Geno Auriemma served as a UVA assistant coach, and USC’s Dawn Staley was an All-America guard for the Cavaliers.
But with the women’s basketball tournament and myriad Olympic sports championships bundled in a television contract with ESPN, the NCAA doesn’t remotely approach maximizing the women’s tournament’s value.
Atlantic 10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade, who played at North Carolina and coached at Georgia Tech, has long advocated shopping the women’s tournament as a separate television entity, and the NCAA may finally be seeing the light.
“It’s obviously in everyone in college sports’ best interests to maximize revenue that you can produce from media contracts,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said at a news conference in Minneapolis, “while recognizing you want to balance that with making sure you get the right coverage too. So it’s not just about money, of course.
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“But the current contract that women’s basketball and virtually all of the non-men’s basketball sports operates under is 13 years old now. … It’s scheduled to end in … August ’24, so we’re heading into just the right period to be looking at and determine the best approach going forward for a new contract.
“Whether that’s splitting up sports, whether that’s keeping some of it together, we’ll have to determine that, and we’ll have to work with outside experts, as we always do, who provide the necessary data and expertise in all of that.”