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NCAA Men's vs. Women's Basketball: Revenue, Scholarship, Viewership & Attendance

Written by: Christian Jope
Fact-checked by: James Whitelock
Updated March 4, 2024
8 min read

Basketball is a globally beloved sport renowned for its commercial success and diversity of play. Men’s and women’s basketball command significant attention within the NCAA. Historically, collegiate basketball once saw stark contrasts in gameplay between genders, with subtle differences persisting today. Amidst this backdrop, we explore the intricacies of NCAA basketball, its diverse dynamics of play, and recruitment that define this beloved collegiate sport.

NCAA Men's vs. Women's Basketball

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What Are the Rule Differences Between Men’s and Women’s NCAA Basketball?

While basketball remains functionally the same in its play between the men’s and women’s games in the NCAA, a few technical differences separate them.

The Ball

  • Men: The regulation basketball has a 29.5 inch circumference.

  • Women: The regulation basketball has a 28.5 inch circumference.

The Three-Point Line

  • Men: The three-point line is 22 feet, 1 ¾ inches from the rim.

  • Women: The three-point line is 20 feet, 9 inches from the rim.

Game Length

  • Men: A match consists of two 20-minute halves.

  • Women: A match is played in four ten-minute quarters.

Restricted Area

  • Men: The restricted area is within a drawn two-inch line four feet from the center of the basket.

  • Women: The restricted area is defined as the area directly underneath the basket.

There is always a recurring debate about whether or not the women’s and men’s games should even have differences in rules. Many rule changes involve ethically debatable assumptions about a group’s ability to put on an entertaining product compared to the others.

NCAA Men’s vs Women’s Basketball: Revenue, Scholarships, Attendance and Ratings

Men’s NCAA BasketballWomen’s NCAA Basketball
Revenue$1.2 billion$2.3 million
Scholarships$1 billion$1 billion
Attendance4,455 / 20, 059 (NCAA Tournament)1,358 / 7,183 (NCAA Tournament)
Ratings14.7 million12.6 million

NCAA Men’s vs Women’s Basketball: Revenue

Who Makes the Most Money: The NCAA Men’s or Women’s Basketball Programs?

When it comes to revenue in major sports, there is rarely an instance where the men’s game doesn’t outpace the women’s game. That position remains in college basketball. The NCAA Men’s Basketball program’s revenue is massive compared to the women’s basketball program’s.

For the 2022 season, the NCAA announced a total revenue of almost $1.3 billion. The 2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament alone generated an incredible near-1.2 billion in revenue for the NCAA, from ticket sales to media rights fees and sponsorships.

On the other hand, the women’s game isn’t flush with revenue. In 2019, women’s Division I basketball generated approximately $600 million in revenue. That number is expected to increase, given a new $920 million broadcast deal over eight years with ESPN signed in January 2024.

What Are the Main Revenue Streams for NCAA Basketball?

March Madness is not just an exciting tournament for players in both the men’s and women’s games. It's a gold mine for the NCAA in terms of revenue. Commercial sponsorships, media distribution, and endorsements are just a few ways the NCAA makes money from the three-week tournament. It generates around 90% of the NCAA’s revenue as a whole.

It isn’t easy to track the individual revenues of teams and programs, as many athletic departments operate as nonprofits.

How Much Is Invested Into Men’s NCAA Basketball Programs Versus Women’s NCAA Basketball Programs?

The revenue split between the Men’s Tournament and the Women’s tournaments isn’t the clearest. While it’s evident that the Men’s Tournament generates the most revenue, the difference in revenue distribution sheds some light on the split in revenue generation and the discriminatory nature of sports.

Seeing as the Men’s Tournament accounts for nearly 90% of revenue for the NCAA, it makes sense that the conference of a team, as it progresses through the tournament, is paid a portion that accumulates as they succeed. Payouts in 2023 ranged from $4 million to $32 million, depending on the team and conference.

On the women’s side, the teams receive no payout for progressing through the tournament. While women represent 43.4% of all college athletes, they receive less than twenty to thirty percent less than men in travel allocation, recruiting resources, equipment, and overall operating expenses.

NCAA Men’s vs. Women’s Basketball: Scholarships

How Many Players on an NCAA Men’s Basketball Program Receive Scholarships?

Men’s college basketball programs have over $1 billion in scholarship money, distributed across colleges, universities, and divisions. The divide is clear regarding how many scholarships are available.

Division I Men’s Basketball has 337 universities with a program. Each team has 13 scholarships available, to be divided across the roster. Approximately 4,300 scholarships are offered in Division I Basketball for Men.

In Division II, there are 296 universities with a basketball program. Each member of the college and the University of Division II is restricted to ten scholarships for their men’s program.

How Many Players on an NCAA Women’s Basketball Program Receive Scholarships?

Women's college basketball programs have around the same amount of money available in scholarships as men's: $1 billion. Distributed across Division I and II programs, there are many opportunities in the women's game.

At the Division I level, there are 335 universities with basketball programs. There are up to 15 scholarships available to be divided amongst players in any program – a total of 5025 scholarships available across Division I basketball.

At the Division II level, there are 298 universities with basketball programs. There are up to 10 scholarships available to be divided amongst players in any program – a total of 2980 scholarships available across Division II basketball.

NCAA Men’s vs. Women’s Basketball: Viewership

Which Is More Viewed in the US, Men’s or Women’s College Basketball?

Overall, men’s college basketball games are watched more than women’s basketball games. As measured by the most popular event, March Madness, we can see the difference in viewership.

The 2023 Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament had an average viewership of 10.0 million.

In comparison, the 2023 Women’s Division I Basketball Tournament Final had an average viewership of 9.92 million across linear and streaming platforms.

Where Is the NCAA Broadcast Outside the USA?

When CBS-Turner took over coverage duties for the NCAA Tournament, ESPN International acquired the rights to distribute the competition outside the United States.

Most coverage is simulcast from US feeds, whereas Final Four and Championship coverage use separately produced world feeds developed by ESPN College Basketball.

Is There an International Market for NCAA Women’s Basketball?

NCAA Women’s Basketball is distributed internationally, and the men’s side is through associated networks like ESPN International. However, due to successful women’s basketball leagues outside the United States, NCAA Women’s Basketball is less prominent abroad.

Some countries outside of the United States with a professional women’s basketball league:


  • (China) Women’s Super Basketball League

  • (Lebanon) Lebanese Basketball League (FLB League)

  • (Philippines) Women’s Philippine Basketball League


  • (Russia) Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League

  • (Spain) Spanish Liga Femenina

  • (England) Women’s English Basketball League


  • (Australia) Women’s National Basketball League

NCAA Men’s vs. Women’s Basketball: Attendance

Who Has the Most Average Fans? Men’s or Women’s College Basketball?

NCAA Men’s Division I basketball has 351 teams, with 5364 total games. Average attendance in 2023 was 4455 per game/session. For the 2023 National Tournament, average attendance was 20,059.

NCAA Women’s Division I basketball has 348 teams, with 5241 games. The average attendance in 2022 was 1358 per game/session. For the 2022 National Tournament, the average attendance per game/session was 7,183.

Which Has the Higher Ticket Price, NCAA Men’s or Women’s Basketball?

Ticket prices vary by college and university across the United States. At specific colleges and universities, tickets are distributed freely to students by a lottery system.

Tickets for the 2023 Men’s NCAA March Madness Tournament were sold in sessions rather than individual games. Average session prices began at $99 before fees in the opening rounds. The Final Four saw an average ticket cost of $234.

In contrast, the women’s Final Four ticket average was $331, almost $100 more than the average cost for the men’s Final Four. Notably, the 2023 men’s and women’s Final Four saw a 50,000 difference in seating capacity, partially affecting the price difference.

NCAA Men’s vs Women’s Basketball: Ratings

Who Has Better Television Ratings?

Ratings for the NCAA regular season fall in favor of the men’s side of NCAA Basketball. But further inspection of the NCAA Tournament as a whole yields exciting results.

Ratings for the 2023 women’s NCAA Championship Final averaged 9.92 million viewers, with a peak of 12.6 million–it set the record for the most watched women’s college basketball game in history.

The 2023 March Madness men’s championship game boasted an average of 14.7 million viewers, a title game record-low.

Conclusion: The Men’s Game Is Big, but the Women’s Game Is Growing

As it has been for most of NCAA basketball history, the men's game has often dominated the women's game regarding revenue and viewership. However, this year, March Madness finals ratings set a record high for women and a record low for men.

This year's final was the most-watched women's college basketball game, peaking at 12.6 million viewers. Not only that, it was also instrumental in inspiring the younger female generation to get involved in sports.

Following the end of the event, Google searches for "girls basketball clubs" in the USA shot up by 305% and 236% worldwide. In particular, Iowa State saw the highest increase in searches, most likely due to the phenomenal performance of the Hawkeyes in the final. Significantly, Caitlin Clark saw searches for her name rise by 476% worldwide, becoming an idol for many young and aspiring athletes.

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Christian Jope

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Christian Jope is a writer, social media strategist, and data analyst. A Queen’s University Alumni, Christian is an author and social media strategist with Raptors Cage, while also working closely with MLSE and Canada Basketball through community-driven events.

Email: [email protected]

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