Sometime this year, the NCAA is expected to announce the sites for the 2027-31 men’s and women’s Final Fours. When they do, don’t be completely surprised if both championships — at least for one year — will be in the same host city.
NCAA president Mark Emmert called holding the men’s and women’s Final Fours in the same city a “great idea” at the SBJ Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in Las Vegas in December, according to The Athletic.
“It’s up to the oversight committees and then the D-1 Council if they really do that,” he said. “They made a joint decision, both men’s and women’s committees together, to not do anything between now and  because of the commitments that have already been made to venues that are out there. It’s a great idea conceptually; it’s a lot more complicated to do in reality.”
Complications include designating the proper venue to host dual events and having enough hotel rooms available to accommodate players, personnel, fans and others.
Both men’s and women’s Final Fours have contracted with host cities through 2026. Here is a list of those cities:
2022: New Orleans (Men’s) and Minneapolis (Women’s)
2023: Houston (Men’s) and Dallas (Women’s)
2024: Phoenix (Men’s) and Cleveland (Women’s)
2025: San Antonio (Men’s) and Tampa Bay, Fla. (Women’s)
2026: Indianapolis (Men’s) and Phoenix (Women’s)
As NCAA.org notes, the 2023 Women’s Final Four in Dallas is scheduled to be a celebration of women’s basketball that will include the Division II and Division III national championship games being played Saturday, between the Division I semifinals Friday and the national title game Sunday.
“We are committed to continuing discussion about the concept of conducting both the women’s and men’s Final Fours in the same city in the next bid cycle for each of these premier NCAA Championships,” Nina King, chair of the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee and director of athletics at Duke, saidin September 2021. “Finding ways to address the gender equity issues that have come to exist through the years between the Division I Women’s and Men’s Basketball Championships is a priority, and we are dedicated to making impactful changes.”
King likely was referring, at least in part, to a report compiled by New York-based civil rights attorney Roberta A. Kaplan in August that claimed “[t]he NCAA’s broadcast agreements, corporate sponsorship contracts, distribution of revenue, organizational structure and culture all prioritize Division I men’s basketball over everything else in ways that create, normalize and perpetuate gender inequities.” Kaplan also noted that “[a]t the same time, the NCAA does not have structures or systems in place to identify, prevent or address those inequities.”
Among the recommendations in the lengthy report (more than 100 pages) were staging both Final Fours in the same city, overhauling the marketing of the women’s tournament and using the trademarked “March Madness” term for both events.
“I certainly hope it’s worth a try as an experiment, just to try it once and see if we can pull it off,” Emmert said in Las Vegas.
Julie Roe Lach, commissioner of the Horizon League (based in Indianapolis, as is the NCAA) and a member of the women’s basketball oversight committee, told the Indianapolis Business Journal that she agrees with Emmert regarding the need for the organization not to rush toward a decision.
“It’s going to take some more time,” she said when interviewed at the NCAA’s annual convention in Indianapolis in January. “I’m on one committee, but there’s several different groups looking at this and giving input.”
That said, the effort to place the men’s and women’s tournaments on more equal footing took a step forward in January when the NCAA unveiled new 2022 Final Four logos and basketball tournament social media channels in January.
As IndyStar.com reported: “The men’s and women’s Final Four each have their own logo now, as well as their own Twitter handle. Previously, there was only one Twitter account (@FinalFour) which branded itself as the “official” handle for the tournament and only tweeted about men’s games.”
The handles now are @MFinalFour and @WFinalFour.
“This makes us at @KaplanHecker so happy!” Kaplan tweetedin response to the NCAA’s move.
IndyStar.com also reminded readers about what happened during the 2021 men’s and women’s tournaments: “A TikTok from Oregon’s Sedona Prince showed disparity in weight room quality between the men’s and women’s tournament bubbles in Indianapolis and San Antonio. Soon, disparities between food, gifts and even COVID testing began to emerge.”
The new logo reveals followed the NCAA’s announcement last September allowing the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship to use “March Madness” as its marketing and branding beginning this year.
Baby steps, people. Baby steps.