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

NCAA Women

Much like in the professional ranks, it wasn’t that long ago that basketball was played differently between men and women at the college level. In fact, even today there are slight differences in the rules for the men’s and women’s games at the college level. Some differences include:

Ball Size

  • A women’s regulation basketball is an inch smaller than a men’s basketball.

Three-Point Arc

  • In men’s college basketball, the three-point line is 22-feet, 1 3/4-inches away from the rim.
  • In women’s college basketball, the three-point line is 20-feet, 9 inches away.

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

Regardless of questions, there are many interesting facts about the differences between NCAA Men’s and Women’s basketball. We take a closer look at how the two compare in regards to things like revenue, scholarships, and viewership.

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

Men’s NCAA BasketballWomen’s NCAA Basketball
Revenue$933 million$266,183
Scholarships$1 billion$1 billion
Attendance4659 per game/session1625 per game/session
Ratings10.5 million3.6 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 in comparison to the women’s basketball program’s revenue.

For the 2020 season, the NCAA announced total revenue of decrease of 50% due to the pandemic-forced cancellation of the 2020 NCAA basketball tournament. The 2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament alone generated an incredible $933 million in revenue for the NCAA – from ticket sales, to media rights fees, and sponsorships.

On the other side of things, the women’s game isn’t flush with revenue. In 2012, only four women’s basketball programs reported a revenue of over $4 million to the Department of Education. That doesn’t mean a lack of popularity though, as there were 21 women’s teams that out-earned their male counterparts that year.

What Are the Main Revenue Streams for NCAA Basketball?

March Madness is not just an exciting tournament for players of both the men’s and women’s games, but it is 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.

As we touched on in the last section, the 2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament generated over $900 million for the NCAA. What was more shocking, was that the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament cost the NCAA $375 million.

It’s difficult to track the individual revenues of teams, as many athletic programs operate as non-profits.

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 obvious that the Men’s Tournament generates the most revenue as a whole, 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. In 2017, that amount was $266, 183, resulting in a near $1.6 million pay-out for the team that makes the Finals.

On the women’s side of things, the teams receive no pay-out for progressing through the tournament. While women represent 43.4% of all college athletes, they receive less than a twenty-to-thirty percent less than men in terms of 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 of scholarship money available to them. Distributed across colleges and universities, as well as divisions, the divide is clear in terms of how many scholarships are available.

In Division I Men’s Basketball, there are 337 universities with a program. Each team has 13 scholarships available, to be divided across the roster. There are an approximate total of 4300 scholarships 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, $1 billion, available in scholarship money. Distributed across Division I and II programs, there are many opportunities in the women’s game as well.

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 given 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 given 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?

As a whole, the men’s college basketball game is watched more than the women’s college basketball game. Measured from the most popular event, March Madness, we can see the difference in viewership.

The 2019 Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament had an average viewership of 6.79 million.

In comparison, the 2019 Women’s Division I Basketball Tournament Final had an average viewership of 3.69 million across linear and streaming platforms.

Where Else Is the NCAA Broadcast (Outside the USA)?

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

The majority of coverage is simulcast from the 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 as the men’s side is through associated networks like ESPN International. However, due to the presence of successful women’s basketball leagues outside of 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:

Asia

  • (China) Women’s Super Basketball League
  • (Lebanon) Lebanese Basketball League (FLB League)
  • (Philippines) Women’s Philippine Basketball League

Europe

  • (Russia) Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League
  • (Spain) Spanish Liga Femenina
  • (England) Women’s English Basketball League

Oceania

  • (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 total teams, with 5364 total games. Average attendance in 2019 was 4659 per game/session. Total attendance for the athletic term was 27,001,383.

NCAA Women’s Division I basketball has a total of 349 total teams, with 5241 total games. Average attendance in 2019 was 1625 per game/session. Total attendance for the athletic term was 8,634,112 – an all-time record.

From the 2019 numbers, both men’s and women’s attendance are buoyed by major colleges/universities and the NCAA Tournament.

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

Ticket prices vary by college and university across the United States. It should also be taken into consideration that at certain colleges and universities, tickets are distributed freely to students by a lottery system.

For the 2021 Men’s NCAA March Madness Tournament, the average ticket price is around $143. This is down from previous years where the average ticket price floated around $250.

The women’s numbers are less available, as the NCAA does not release specific numbers regarding the revenues and operating costs of the women’s basketball tournament. At the moment, resale tickets for the 2021 women’s tournament begin at $195.

NCAA Men’s vs Women’s Basketball: Ratings

Who Has Better Television Ratings?

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

Ratings for the 2019 women’s Final Four (3.6 million) were comparable to the top NCAA men’s regular-season games during the 2020-2021 season. Since 2016, viewership for the NCAA women’s final has increased by 24%.

The men’s 2019 NCAA March Madness Tournament averaged 10.5 million viewers.

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

As it has been for the majority of NCAA Basketball history, the men’s game has dominated the women’s game in terms of revenue and viewership. However, recent trends over the past ten years have shown that the women’s game is growing at a steady pace.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has halted a lot of growth for NCAA sports across the board, the overall trends are positive for the women’s game. Improving the game by creating equal opportunity across all NCAA sports, not just basketball, for athletes of any gender, race, or creed is an initiative that can only help the growth of the college game.

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Christian Jope

Expert on NBA

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.



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