Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

2024 March Madness Tournament: A stepping stone for equality in sports

Rachel Choi
Illustration Rachel Choi

There is always a lot of buzz surrounding NCAA men’s March Madness, but this year, the women’s tournament is capturing the attention of millions. With stars like Caitlin Clark from the University of Iowa, Paige Bueckers of the University of Connecticut, and Angel Reese from Louisiana State University headlining the event, women’s basketball has more stakes and tension than ever before. 

The 2024 women’s tournament started March 20 with the first four teams competing in Albany, New York, and Portland, Oregon. The final game of the tournament is scheduled for Sunday, April. 7 at 3 p.m. EST, at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland. 

The tournament, which began with 66 teams on Mar. 20, has condensed to the sweet 16 teams as of March 26. Each week, the number of teams in the tournament will be divided in half; next up is the “Elite Eight” and then the remainder will make the “Final Four.” 

Despite the rising popularity of NCAA women’s basketball in recent years, the women’s final is being played in an arena that holds 19,500 seats, while the men’s final is being held at State Farm Stadium, which houses 63,400. The locations of the tournaments have been predetermined until 2031.

Since the 4.42 million viewers on the University of Iowa versus Ohio State women’s basketball game on March 3, where Caitlin Clark broke the all-time scoring record, viewership from Iowa has shot up for the women’s and March Madness tournament. 

In the past five years, women’s sports coverage across all levels has tripled. In the championship game last season between LSU and Iowa, there were more than 350,000 spectators, setting an attendance record for the women’s Final Four. 

Branding around the 2024 women’s tournament has also been more prominent this year as opposed to years past with the women receiving more coverage. It was not until 2022 that the women’s tournament was allowed to use March Madness branding

It is expected that the women’s tournament alone will generate over $1 billion. The predicted success of the tournament is heavily influenced by stars like Caitlin Clark. Not only has Clark generated viewership for the tournament, but so have players like Sedona Prince of Texas Christian University, who called out the NCAA in 2021 for their unfair treatment of female athletes in the tournament. 

Prince posted a video on her TikTok showing the drastic difference between the men’s and women’s weight rooms at the 2021 tournament. The men’s was fully furnished with multiple machines and a wide variety of weights, while the women’s had a few yoga mats and free weights. After Price’s video went viral, the difference in merchandise that athletes were given was also brought up as a prominent issue. Since the 2021 weight room scandal, all eyes have been on the NCAA and how they are treating their male versus female athletes. 

One of the largest brand contributors to the March Madness tournament is Dove. Every year, athletes attending the tournament are given a “swag bag” which includes multiple products from different brands. This year, Dove has taken over March Madness, gifting athletes multiple products from their collection. 

In a TikTok that Faith Masonius, a University of Maryland basketball player, posted, she went through all of the products Dove provided. In years past, the quantity of items gifted to female athletes has been substantially lower than those presented to male athletes, but this year, it is even. 

Ticket prices for the 2024 women’s tournament are surpassing the men’s. As of March 25, ticket prices for the women’s Final Four are $474 per ticket in contrast to the men’s $342

Additionally, fans are able to participate in women’s March Madness brackets, generating more excitement and viewership. Before the women’s tournament was able to use the March Madness branding, brackets were only heavily popularized among men’s teams, but since the rebranding, fans have had the opportunity to create brackets for both tournaments. 

The publicization and coverage surrounding the women’s March Madness tournament is a stepping stone in the right direction when it comes to equality at both the amateur and professional athletic levels. 

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About the Contributor
Kaitlyn Smitten
Kaitlyn Smitten, Staff Writer
Kaitlyn Smitten (she/her) is a freshman journalism student from Red Deer, Alberta. Canada. Kaitlyn is a part of the Emerson College softball team and enjoys traveling, reading, and listening to music. She aspires to be an investigative and/or breaking news reporter.

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