In AP survey, ADs raise worries about women's college sports

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FILE - Stanford players, top, and a Utah Valley player warm up before their college basketball game in the first round of the women's NCAA tournament at the Alamodome in San Antonio, in this Sunday, March 21, 2021, file photo. Arena branding was among the differences people noticed between the NCAA's two biggest events, the women's and men's basketball tournaments. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

INDIANAPOLIS – To hear many of those in charge of Division I programs tell it, the state of play for women's sports could get worse, not better, under proposals that would put more money in the pockets of some college athletes.

Via a new Associated Press survey of athletic directors, and in conversations with ADs and conference commissioners during March Madness, a picture emerged of concern for sports other than the two largest revenue-generators, football and men’s basketball.

The AP asked 357 ADs a series of online questions shortly before various differences between the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments were put on full display over the past two weeks, drawing complaints from players and coaches, along with mea culpas from the NCAA. Granted anonymity in exchange for candor, 99 athletic directors participated.

The most striking of the results released Thursday: 94% of respondents said it would be somewhat or much more difficult to comply with Title IX gender equity rules if their school were to compensate athletes in the biggest money-making sports.

“I do fully understand the concerns that the ADs raised in your survey, and I’m not the least bit surprised," NCAA President Mark Emmert said. "One of the things that we’re working with Congress on, and as we shape our own rules, is for folks to understand that while there is a common belief that all universities make very large amounts of money off of college sports, the reality is quite different from that. And when there are other calls on those funds, that limits the ability of schools to be able to support all their teams, and that’s something I worry a great deal about.”

One AD wrote in the survey: "Sharing revenue with student-athletes is not feasible. That only works if universities are then absolved of Title IX requirements. Football revenue supports women’s golf, women’s tennis, women’s softball, women’s volleyball, women’s soccer, women’s track and field on this campus.”

More than 70% said certain sports would lose funding or be cut altogether if their school offered additional non-scholarship payments to students.

“It’s not good enough to just say, ‘Let’s change.’ We have to contemplate the impacts of the change. What’s on the other side of the looking glass,” said Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey, whose league's ADs did not participate in the survey. “And I am concerned — highly concerned — about the impact on all student-athletes.”