College Notebook: NCAA uses March Madness for women’s tournaments

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The NCAA women’s basketball tournament will use March Madness in marketing and branding this season.

The use of the phrase, which has been associated with the men’s tournament for years, was one of the recommendations that came from an external review of the equality issues of the tournaments. The report, released in August, was sparked by outrage over the differences between amenities like the tight weight room available to women’s teams versus men’s teams.

It is still unclear how March Madness will integrate into the women’s tournament, but bringing the slogan to the field would be a possible starting place. Last season’s tournament just had Women’s Basketball on the pitch.

The NCAA women’s basketball tournament will use March Madness in marketing and branding starting this season. Last season, the words “women’s basketball” were used on the courts where the women’s tournament was held. Charlie Riedel / Associated Press

“Women’s basketball has grown tremendously over the past few years and we continue to focus on our priority of making the game better and bigger,” said Lynn Holzman, vice president of women’s basketball. “The brand awareness that March Madness carries will expand marketing opportunities as we continue our work to improve the women’s basketball championship.”

The Division I Women’s Basketball Supervisory Committee unanimously supported the adoption of the set.

“This is just the beginning when it comes to improving gender equality in running the two Division I basketball championships,” said Lisa Campos, chair of the committee. “The addition of the March Madness trademark to the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship will enhance the development and public awareness of the sport, and the Supervisory Committee looks forward to its work to consider other recommendations by the governance structure in order to continue these efforts.”

Another possible change would be to expand the tournament field from 64 teams to 68 teams to match the men’s class.

The NCAA also announced on Wednesday that the national bureau will start over in determining budget spending for the two tournament staff, rather than adjusting budgets from the previous fiscal year. This step will help identify where resource allocation differences occur in the two tournaments and potentially increase the chances of cross-promotion. It will also try to make the two championships more financially balanced.

Northwestern football players gather during practice on Aug. 17, 2015. College football players and several other athletes in revenue-generating sports are employees of their schools, the National Labor Relations Board’s top attorney said in a memo on Wednesday that it would allow players to unionize and otherwise negotiate their working conditions. The NLRB nine-page memo revisited a case involving Northwestern University football players who were thwarted by union formation when the board said that taking sides “would not promote stability in industrial relations.” Jeffrey Phelps / Associated Press

ATHLETES AS EMPLOYEES: College athletes who make millions for their schools are employees, the National Labor Relations Board’s top lawyer said in a guide that would allow players in private universities to unionize and otherwise negotiate their terms of employment.

NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo also threatened action against schools, conferences and the NCAA if they continued to use the term “student-athlete”.

“The freedom to get involved in large and lucrative commercial enterprises makes players in academic institutions much more similar to professional athletes who are hired by a team to practice a sport,” wrote the Abruzzo.

The Abruzzo memo does not immediately change the dynamic between schools and their athletes who, in exchange for sports, can receive scholarships and limited costs to participate. Instead, it is legal advice to the NLRB just in case.

This could be triggered by a team’s efforts to unionize, an allegation of unfair work practices, or even a school continuing to refer to a player as a “student-athlete,” Abruzzo said in an interview with The Associated Press .

“It just perpetuates this notion that players in academic institutions are not workers who are protected by law,” she said. “The right of workers to band together to improve their working conditions is terrifying.”

Neither the NCAA, the largest umbrella organization in the country with the supervision of around 450,000 athletes, nor representatives of the Power Five conferences responded to a request for a statement from the AP.

Gabe Feldman, director of the Tulane Sports Law Program, said the memo was “another threat” to the NCAA and its business model, which relies on unpaid athletes to generate billions in revenue that is distributed to its 1,200 member schools.

“All the signs point to an increasingly vulnerable and fragile system of college athletics,” he said.

Although football is college sport’s biggest money-maker at the five largest conferences, the memo would extend protection to all athletes who meet the legal definition of an employee: someone who provides services to an institution and is under its control.

The NLRB has authority only over private schools; Athletes in public universities would have to turn to legislative bodies or Congress for protection in the workplace. But the NCAA and the conferences could be viewed as contributors, Abruzzo told the AP.

“If they trade in the private sector, they are subject to this law,” she said. “We believe that not only the college but also the conference itself controls employment conditions directly and immediately.”

The NLRB’s new stance – which restores an old mind overturned during President Donald Trump’s tenure – is the latest test for the NCAA and U.S. college sports infrastructure.

This spring, a unanimous Supreme Court said the NCAA cannot curtail educational benefits while foreshadowing the end of the NCAA’s business model, and several weeks later, under pressure from several states, the organization paved the way for athletes to make money that on her celebrity.

Since March, the NCAA has also been criticized for the inequality between resources, branding, and support for men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. The organization plans to revise its statutes, some of which have been in force for a century.

Abruzzo also wrote that after the assassination of George Floyd, players across the country had taken collective action – measures that “directly affect terms of employment and constitute a protected concerted activity”. Players have also banded together during the recent pandemic – both by advocating for the games to move forward and for rules to protect themselves once they have.

“Players at academic institutions have gained more power as they better understand their worth by generating billions of dollars in revenue for their colleges and universities, sports conferences, and the NCAA,” she wrote.

“And this increased activism and the demand for fair treatment received more support from some coaches, fans and school administrators. Actors at academic institutions who take concerted action to improve their working conditions have the right to be protected from retaliation. “

The NLRB nine-page memo revisited a case of Northwestern footballers who were prevented from forming a union when the Board of Directors said in 2015 that partisanship “would not promote stability in industrial relations”.

Much has changed since then, including the awakening of collective social justice and the Alston Supreme Court ruling in which Abruzzo said they “made a clear statement that this was a for-profit business and not amateurism”.

If similar cases as in the north-west come before the NLRB, a different decision could be made.

“I don’t think the board can or should punt,” she told the AP. “I think we have more information that they are statutory employees.”

The memo of Abruzzo appointed by President Joe Biden overturned a 2017 memo from its predecessor. That memo had in turn overturned a memo issued during President Barack Obama’s tenure when Abruzzo was Deputy General Counsel.

“I was closely involved in drawing up the original memo that was kept,” said the Abruzzo. “I wanted to say that this General Counsel believes that athletes are … workers who are covered by our statutes.”


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