The proposed move to expand the NCAA women’s basketball tournament from 64 to 68 teams advanced through two committees on Thursday.
The Division I Women’s Basketball Committee and the Division I Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee both voted unanimously for the expansion. Now the proposal goes up for consideration by governance committees, with the final decision expected in mid-November.
The vote follows other NCAA measures in recent weeks, such as opting to use the March Madness branding for the women. It all comes in the wake of the external gender equity report the NCAA commissioned regarding its championships after some of the disparities between the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments came to light in March.
The men’s basketball NCAA tournament went to 68 teams in 2011.
“The committee’s first priority is ensuring that student-athletes competing in women’s basketball have a championship experience that is equitable to men’s basketball,” said Duke athletic director Nina King, chair of the Division I women’s basketball committee. “Expanding the women’s tournament bracket to 68 teams would immediately ensure that student-athletes in both men’s and women’s basketball have an equal number of team opportunities to compete for an NCAA championship each year.”
Since 2015, the women’s basketball tournament has had the top 16 overall seeded teams host the first- and second-round games at their home venues. Under the proposed 68-team format for 2022, the opening-round games of the women’s tournament would take place at four of those top 16 seeds’ arenas. Starting with the 2023 tournament, the opening round would be hosted at one predetermined neutral site.
Under this proposal, selection criteria for the opening round would be the same as for men’s basketball, in which the last four at-large teams and teams seeded 65 through 68 compete prior to the start of the first and second rounds.
“Today’s vote is yet another step taken toward achieving equity between the two tournaments,” said UTSA athletic director Lisa Campos, chair of the Division I women’s basketball oversight committee and director.