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The ESPN-NCAA deal is a good sign for women’s college sports

The worldwide leader has decided to value and also invest in better broadcasting and coverage around NCAA women’s championships.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

On Thursday, the NCAA and ESPN agreed to a new deal for the media rights to 40 college athletics championships, including women’s basketball and volleyball.

The deal’s annual payout of approximately $115 million is around three times the amount of the previous contract and also values the women’s sports championships at around $65 million annually, NCAA president Charlie Baker told Front Office Sports.

The previous contract had 29 sports championships, so 11 sports are being added, while others are expecting increased exposure in the new deal. Baker also said the NCAA is ready to begin exploring revenue payouts based on tournament performance. FOS reporter Amanda Christovich wrote that “high-profile women’s basketball coaches have said that adding a women’s ‘unit’ system is the No. 1 way to incentivize equity in the NCAA structure.”

UConn coach Geno Auriemma supported the idea.

“It’s a great step forward and it really shows how much progress has been made in just one year really,” he told the Associated Press. “I think this definitely paves the way for a units program similar to the men. There’s still a lot left that we can accomplish and I look forward to it.”

This is a challenging time for the media and entertainment industries. In the sports world, that effect has been felt in conference realignment and the dissolution of the Pac-12. For any entity to find pathways to more money is, generally, good, according to multiple sources, and in this case, it appears some of the major beneficiaries are women’s sports programs and the schools that care about them.

For UConn, in very obvious terms, this means more money. The Huskies’ program has been quite successful and will most likely see a lot of success in the future as well. Women’s basketball success won’t bridge the gap between the Big East and “Power Four/Three” TV payouts, but it could help UConn women’s basketball stay competitive as other power conference programs increase their investments in the sport.

The $920 million deal runs through 2032.