NCAA hoops leagues grapple with unequal pay for women’s refs



The NCAA earned praise last year when it agreed to pay referees at its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments equally. The gesture only cost about $100,000, a tiny fraction of the roughly $900 million networks pay annually to broadcast March Madness.

Now, as the NCAA examines various disparities across men’s and women’s sports, pressure is rising to also pay referees equally during the regular season. Two Division I conferences told The Associated Press they plan to equalize pay, and another is considering it. Others are resisting change, even though the impact on their budgets would be negligible.

“The ones that are (equalizing pay) are reading the writing on the wall,” said Michael Lewis, a marketing professor at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.

The details of NCAA referee pay are closely guarded, but The Associated Press obtained data for the 2021-22 season that show 15 of the NCAA’s largest — and most profitable — conferences paid veteran referees for men’s basketball an average of 22% more per game.

That level of disparity is wider than the gender pay gap across the U.S. economy, where women earn 82 cents for every dollar a man earns, according to the 2020 census. And it is an overwhelming disadvantage for women, who make up less than 1% of the referees officiating men’s games.

Dawn Staley, the head coach for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks — the women’s national champions — said referees on the men’s side should be “stepping up” and advocating for equal pay for women’s referees. “They don’t do anything different,” she said. “Why should our officials get paid less for taking the (expletive) we give them?”

The people who provided AP with data for nearly half of the NCAA’s 32 Division I conferences have direct knowledge of pay scales, and they did so on condition of anonymity because the information is considered private.

The Northeast Conference had the widest per-game pay disparity among the NCAA leagues AP analyzed, with the most experienced referees for men’s games earning 48% more. The Atlantic-10 paid veteran men’s refs 44% more, while the Colonial Athletic Association paid them 38% more. (Only the Ivy League paid veteran officials equally in the data AP reviewed.)

Of the conferences with unequal pay contacted by AP, two — the Pac-12 and the Northeast Conference — said they plan to level the playing field starting next season. A third, the Patriot League, which had a 33% pay gap last year, said it is reviewing equity for officials in all sports. “Pay is part of that,” commissioner Jennifer Heppel said.

The Pac-12 paid referees equally a decade ago, but allowed a disparity to build over time, according to associate commissioner Teresa Gould. She said returning to equal pay is “the right thing to do.”



Source link