The Division I Women's Basketball Committee and the Division I Women's Basketball Oversight Committee on Thursday voted unanimously on a proposal that would expand the Division I Women's Basketball Championship field from 64 to 68 teams, effective immediately.
The proposal will now advance for consideration by governance committees. A final determination is expected by mid-November.
The vote follows a recommendation from a comprehensive external gender equity review of NCAA championships. The first phase of the review examined historical inequities in college basketball and was spurred by issues that arose during the 2021 Division I Men's and Women's Basketball Championships.
"The committee's first priority is ensuring that student-athletes competing in women's basketball have a championship experience that is equitable to men's basketball," said Nina King, chair of the Division I Women's Basketball Committee and director of athletics at Duke. "Expanding the women's tournament bracket to 68 teams would immediately ensure that student-athletes in both men's and women's basketball have an equal number of team opportunities to compete for an NCAA championship each year."
Since 2015, the format for the women's basketball tournament has provided the top 16 overall seeded teams with the opportunity to host the first- and second-round games at their home venues. Under the proposed 68-team format for 2022, the opening-round games of the women's tournament would take place at four of those top 16 seeds' sites.
Starting with the 2023 tournament, the opening round would be hosted at one predetermined neutral site.
"Today's vote is yet another step taken toward achieving equity between the two tournaments," said Lisa Campos, chair of the Division I Women's Basketball Oversight Committee and director of athletics at the University of Texas at San Antonio. "The women's basketball oversight committee is proud to continue its leadership role in reviewing many of the recommendations from the gender equity report, and we look forward to implementing this format change to positively impact the championship experience for women's basketball."
Under this proposal, selection criteria for the opening round would be the same as those for men's basketball, in which the last four at-large teams and teams seeded 65 through 68 compete prior to the start of the first and second rounds.