NCAA puts gender atop its agenda Schultz to push for more TV for women's basketball

February 10, 1993|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

NCAA executive director Dick Schultz yesterday pledged the organization's commitment to the concept of gender equity in athletics, even if a clear definition hasn't yet been formed.

Speaking at a news conference in New York focusing on women's basketball, Schultz said the NCAA is attempting to develop strategies to open up more opportunities for women in athletics.

But Schultz admitted that he and other athletic officials are hamstrung by the "inability to put a firm definition" on what gender equity will mean, including, as some predict, a reduction in the scope of men's athletic programs to bring them closer in size to women's.

"The important thing that everyone wants to accomplish is to be sure that whatever happens enhances and improves the quality of women's athletics and the opportunity for women to participate in intercollegiate athletics," said Schultz. "But just to scale down the men's side so that it balances the women's side really doesn't do anything for women. It keeps them in a status quo position."

Though the precise battle lines and definitions over gender equity in college sports haven't been drawn yet, one of the early winners appears to be women's basketball.

Schultz called basketball "the premier women's sport in the NCAA" and pledged an effort to get more games televised to further boost the sport's growing popularity.

"Four or five years ago, to talk about sellouts at women's basketball games was unheard of. Now, we're having several of them every year. If we can get several of those games televised, I think we'll see the sport of women's basketball quickly come to a new level," he said.

He admitted that the NCAA is having difficulty convincing a broadcast network or cable carrier to present a slate of women's games or take the women's tournament finals as a separate package. Right now, CBS carries the women's Final Four as a condition of having the rights to the more popular men's tournament.

"Maybe it's going to have to be a real demand from the general public, but I don't think the public will demand that [more televised games]," Schultz said. "It's kind of a chicken and the egg theory, and which one comes first. We just have to work a little bit harder at publicizing these games and stimulating the interest."

The popularity is expected to lead to the expansion of the Division I tournament field from its current 48-team field to 64, as early as next season.

Judith Holland, senior associate athletic director at UCLA and chair of the tournament committee, said an expansion for next year is not definite. An NCAA executive committee voted down an expansion to 56 teams last spring. But with the gender equity issue as a prod, expansion is expected to be approved this summer.

"We're going to see the popularity of women's basketball increase so much by going to 64 teams," Holland said. "The reason is we're going to see more grass roots tournament-level teams playing all across this country, which I think raises the experience that a lot of people have, and not just the players and coaches, but the fans."

The women probably will continue to allow tournament teams to play host to early-round games and regionals on their home courts and potentially play for Final Four berths without ever leaving campus.

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