Gender equity review was a huge focus of the NCAA in 2021, and will remain a prominent topic of conversation moving forward. Most of the discourse has centered around facility access and level of resources for male and female athletes, after a significant gap was revealed ahead of the 2021 NCAA basketball tournament.
However, equal resourcing, opportunities and compensation strides are now also including the referees who will call the NCAA tournament.
In the last decade, the rate of pay for officials in the men’s tournament had been higher than that of the officials who worked the women’s tournament, but that will no longer be the case effective this year.
“All basketball officials, regardless of the gender of sport participants, will be receiving equal pay for championship games officiated in 2022 and beyond,” the NCAA said.
While this topic may feel like more of an adjacent issue to the main focus of equal athletic resources, it is actually a large step in the right direction for the perceived equality of women’s sports. Electing to compensate the officials who work the women’s game at a lower rate than those who work men’s games inherently sends a message that the women’s game is not up to par, or as important as their male counterparts’.
Additionally, judging whether to call a foul in the act of shooting, a charge/block, or traveling is inherently the same work, whether it is been determined with female participants or male ones.
From 2001 to 2012, officials received the same pay regardless of which tournament they were working. While the reason(s) for the switch after the 2012 tournaments is largely unknown, this action taken by the NCAA represents a restorative correction to a system that should have never changed. Officials did not have much of a leg to stand on after the 2012 change, because they are independent contractors.
According to the NCAA, softball and lacrosse were the only two other sports that had a referee compensation discrepancy based on gender, but they announced that this has also been changed for 2022.