(Reuters) - The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has failed to live up to its commitment to gender equality in its basketball programs and should institute a series of reforms, according to a report .
The report, by law firm Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, was commissioned by the NCAA after a video was posted to social media in March by University of Oregon's Sedona Prince that showed the disparity between the men and women's weight rooms ahead of the NCAA's division I basketball tournaments.
The video and others that followed led to an apology by the NCAA, but the report said problems run deeper than differences in equipment.
"The NCAA's organizational structure and culture prioritizes men's basketball, contributing to gender inequity," said the law firm.
The NCAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
While the vast majority of the NCAA's current revenue comes from men's basketball, largely due to the structure of broadcast deals that incentivise promoting the men's game, the report says that the women's game, which is growing in popularity, is significantly undervalued by the outdated deals.
There are also financial incentives for colleges on the men's side to invest in their programs in order to go as far as possible in the tournament, which is not the case on the women's side, the report says.
"This sends a very clear and loud message to student-athletes, conferences, and schools about which sports matter and which sports do not," the report said.
To level the playing field, the NCAA should change its leadership structure to prioritise gender equity and perform a real-time gender equity audit of the division I men's and women's basketball championships, the report said.
Among a host of other recommendations, the report said the NCAA should also hold the men's and women's division I tournaments in the same city and use the "March Madness" moniker to promote both of them.
"Although the systemic issues summarized above are significant, we believe that there are concrete steps that the NCAA can and should take that will make the student-athlete experience far more equitable from the perspective of gender," the report said.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Toby Davis)