Dec 25, 2019

Women take the lead on donating to support female college sports

The Indiana Hoosiers celebrate after the NCAA Women's College Basketball game. Photo: Bobby Goddin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Former female athletes are donating millions of dollars to build facilities, endow scholarships and support coaching positions at their alma maters, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: Participation in women’s college sports teams is at an all time high, outnumbering men's sports for more than 20 years. And yet, the marketing and sponsorships from benefactors for college female teams has caught on slower than men's sports.

Background: Title IX required schools to provide equitable opportunities, including funding, for both male and female student athletes. The law helped kick-start varsity women’s teams with more resources and salaried coaches.

  • The NCAA doesn’t track philanthropy by gender, but universities do. And some athletic directors have said they’re experiencing an uptick in women asking how they can support these programs.

By the numbers: Today, 10,586 women’s teams compete in NCAA championship sports, compared to 9,159 men’s teams. Women’s NCAA teams increased by 64 in 2017, according to NCAA's most recent stats.

  • Turnout for national women's sports grew at an average of almost 40% since 2013, according to a study by sports marketing agency Two Circles.

Contributions to U.S. colleges and universities came to a record $46.73 billion in fiscal year 2018, according to a report from the Voluntary Support of Education survey by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

  • At Indiana University: Women make up half of the philanthropic funding sources routed toward athletics — about $52 million. That money has been earmarked for a women's sports center focused on physical and mental wellness, nutrition and leadership and life skills.
  • At Drake University: Suzie Glazer Burt, a third-generation member of the school's board of trustees, gave the school's largest noncapital donation to the women's basketball program, totaling $5 million for the head coach’s salary, another coach hire and to help the team travel more by plane, the Des Moines Register reports.
  • At Queens University: Chief technology officer at Bank of America Cathy Bessant donated $1 million for a $2.4 million field hockey field house, the Charlotte Observer reports. Her daughter played field hockey and graduated from there in 2018.

The bottom line: 51% of personal wealth in the U.S. comes from women, based on data fro 2015, and is expected to keep growing.

  • Per NYT: "Sports philanthropy reflects that women who have made their own money, inherited fortunes or outlived their spouses are controlling more wealth than ever in the United States and are directing it to their favorite causes."

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Lacrosse and track and field are on the rise

Reproduced from NCAA Research; Chart: Axios Visuals

Over the past decade, the NCAA men's and women's sports with the largest net gains in participating teams, across all divisions, are lacrosse and track and field, per NCAA data.

The other side: Gymnastics, rifle and skiing all saw a decline in both men's and women's programs, while tennis, fencing, water polo and women's rowing (men's rowing isn't sanctioned by the NCAA) saw virtually no increase.

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WNBA and union finalize historic deal

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The WNBA and its players' union have come to terms on a new eight-year collective bargaining agreement that includes higher salaries, improved family benefits and better travel accommodations.

Why it matters: This represents a turning point for women's basketball and could ultimately lead to a substantial shift in how female athletes — across all sports — are compensated.

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