New NCAA Approval Rules May Benefit Women More Than Men


(The Conversation is an independent, nonprofit source of information, analysis, and commentary from academic experts.)

(THE CONVERSATION) Just a week after the NCAA changed its approval rules on July 1, 2021, female college athletes gathered on billboards in Times Square in New York City, launching a clothing line collaboration and signing sponsorship agreements for brands including a wireless operator and a fast food chain.

Female college athletes have historically been much more limited in their ability to benefit from their athletic skills compared to their male counterparts. As an assistant professor of sports management who studies gender equity in varsity athletics, I believe the new rules around name, image and likeness will start to level the playing field.

In fact, female college athletes could stand to gain the most from the change in the NCAA.


Very under-represented

In college and professional sports, women are under-represented among players, coaches, administrators and front office workers.

At best, the proportions of women working in college and professional sports have remained relatively stable over the past decade, with significant gains at the level of men’s professional leagues.

Men make up about 60% of all NCAA women’s program head coaches and 98% of men’s program head coaches. Additionally, 76% of athletic directors in NCAA Division 1, the highest administrative role, are held by white males.

These imbalances have caused many female college athletes to question their ability to pursue a career in college coaching.

Much lower wages

The average salary for WNBA players is US $ 130,000 and the minimum salary is $ 59,000. In comparison, the average NBA salary for the 2021-2022 season is $ 7.5 million, with a minimum wage of around $ 925,000. The NBA’s minor league basketball organization, the NBA G League, pays some players $ 125,000 per season.

Women’s tennis offers some of the highest salaries of female players averaging around $ 285,000 per season, but the total salaries of professional female athletes in other sports drop significantly from this starting point.

For professional women’s soccer, the average is $ 35,000. Professional male soccer players earn an average of around $ 400,000.

For professional fastpitch softball, the number drops to just $ 6,000 per season. The average salary for Major League Baseball, meanwhile, was around $ 4.2 million for the 2019 season.

So even when female athletes play professionally, they often don’t earn enough to be their only occupation.

Fewer opportunities to become pro

Women university athletes also have fewer opportunities to practice their sport at the professional level. That is, making a professional team is even more difficult for female varsity athletes than for men.

For example, the WNBA is the hardest North American professional sports league to earn a spot on the roster, given the total number of teams and roster limits. The WNBA has only 12 teams and each roster is limited to 12 players. For comparison, the NBA has 30 teams and the roster allows 15 players in total, as well as 29 G League teams with no roster limit of up to 13 players.

Very marketable

Despite their limited athletic career prospects, female varsity athletes are highly marketable. This is evident in the growth in viewership for events such as the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championship and the NCAA Women’s College World Series. For the 2020 Women’s College World Series, the average number of viewers per match was around 1.2 million, 10% more than in 2019. The 2020 Women’s Gymnastics Final attracted an average of over 800,000 viewers, that’s five times more viewers than in 2019.

Female varsity athletes have also proven to be savvy users of social media, with some gaining hundreds of thousands of followers.

In fact, a 2021 projected income analysis conducted by marketing platform Opendorse found that eight of the 10 most followed social media profiles among NCAA Tournament Elite Eight basketball players were from female athletes. These numbers were calculated by combining their total number of Twitter and Instagram followers.

This equates to higher earning capacity, as the top two female accounts have a potential approval value of $ 382,000 to $ 965,000 per year. Much of the earning potential is based on sponsored social media posts.

Some college cheerleaders have already earned over $ 5,000 per Instagram post because their sport is not governed by NCAA regulations.

A similar analysis in 2020 by Athletic Director U found that among all varsity athletes, regardless of sport, more women than men – 14 vs. 11 – are expected to be among the top 25 sponsorship earnings according to social reach. The projected annual approval potential for these high performance female athletes ranged from $ 34,000 for Brooke Thomas of Oklahoma State University Track and Field to around $ 500,000 for Madison Kocian of UCLA Gymnastics.

Some high performance female athletes have prepared to enter into sponsorship deals by signing contracts with talent management companies. Paige Bueckers, a female basketball player from the University of Connecticut; Cameron Brink of Stanford Women’s Basketball; and Sarah Fuller of Vanderbilt football and soccer are just a few of the college athletes who recently signed with Wasserman, a Los Angeles-based sports marketing and talent management company.

These female varsity athletes now have a real opportunity to make money from their skills as athletes in a way that other professional sports career paths could never guarantee.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: https://theconversation.com/new-ncaa-endorsement-rules-could-benefit-women-more-than-men-166003.


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