NCAA to Pay Officials the Same Amount for Men's, Women's Basketball Tournaments

The NCAA has announced that it will resume paying officials in the men's and women's college basketball tournaments the same amount for officiating games in each tournament.

"The national office continues to prioritize gender equity and has taken steps to correct the disparity of pay for officials selected to work the Division I Men's and Women's Basketball Championships," the NCAA said in a statement. "All basketball officials, regardless of the gender of sport participants, will be receiving equal pay for championship games officiated in 2022 and beyond."

The NCAA reportedly noticed the difference in recent budget meetings and decided to change the policy.

From 2001 to 2012, the officials made the same amount of money for each tournament, but since 2012, referees for men's college basketball received larger pay raises for officiating regular-season conference games than the officials that worked women's games. This led to the NCAA paying more to get the best officials for the men's tournament than the women's, a source familiar with the NCAA's decision told the Associated Press.

Gender equality has been on the forefront of college sports discussions, especially college basketball following the men's and women's college basketball tournaments that took place earlier this year.

Several social media posts from student-athletes playing in the women's tournament that showed lesser accommodations from what the men's tournament received including a smaller weight room and gift bags for the players that included less free products and merchandise.

Following the tournaments, the NCAA hired a law firm, Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP, to evaluate its gender equality practices.

The resulting 113-page report issued in August suggested several changes, including expanding the field of teams for the women's tournament to 68, the same number as the men's tournament, and using the same "March Madness" marketing campaign for both tournaments, which had only been used to market the men's tournament in the past.

March Madness, NCAA, Gender Equality
The NCAA announced this week it will resume a practice that stopped in 2012 and it will pay referees for the men's and women's college basketball tournaments the same amount. Above, a general view of a 'March Madness' logo is seen during practice before the First Round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 20, 2019, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Officiating was not brought up at all in the report, but the NCAA noticed in budgeting meetings that the referees had a pay difference and decided to make a change.

"Happy the NCAA recognized that this was the right thing to do for NCAA Tournament officials," selection committee chairwoman Nina King said. "It was almost low-hanging fruit. Why aren't we paying the officials the same to do the same work on the men's tournament? Pretty easy rationale to put forward. I'm really pleased that we got the approval to do that."

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they weren't allowed to speak publicly on the matter.

Unlike professional sports leagues, college officials are independent contractors.

The NCAA also said it will pay softball and lacrosse equitably as compared to their counterparts for men's games. The other 21 sports already had equitable pay.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Fresno State's Haley Cavinder
The NCAA has announced that it will resume paying officials in the men's and women's college basketball tournaments the same amount for officiating games in each tournament. In this March 4, 2020, file photo, Fresno State's Haley Cavinder plays against Boise State during the first half of a Mountain West Conference tournament NCAA women's college basketball game in Las Vegas. Isaac Brekken/Associated Press