The 2022 NCAA Women's Final Four in Minneapolis is still on despite a recent law firm's gender equity review recommending combining the men's and women's Final Four into one venue.
The combined Final Four suggestion was among several recommendations in a blistering, 113-page review this week by the New York-based firm Kaplan Hecker & Fink, which came after revelations of unequal treatment at the Women's Final Four in San Antonio last season.
That news had potential to impact Minneapolis, which is scheduled to host the 2022 Women's Final Four at Target Center from April 1-3. The men's event is slated for New Orleans.
"We are far down in the planning stages that it's 100 percent going to be happening in Minneapolis," said Wendy Blackshaw, CEO of the Women's 2022 Final Four. "We're really excited about that."
During last year's Final Four in San Antonio, women's players and coaches took to social media, noting that while the men's Final Four teams had a full weight training area in Indianapolis, for example, this was not the case for the women's teams.
The Kaplan firm also cited disparities in COVID-19 testing protocols, meals, signage and staffing. The NCAA Women's Basketball Committee released a statement acknowledging "inequities that have existed historically in our sport."
"We will immediately review the recommendations that fall under our purview as we embrace this opportunity to make meaningful changes that improve the championship experience for current and future college athletes," the statement said.
Geno Auriemma, who coaches Connecticut and Hopkins native Paige Bueckers, told the Associated Press that the combined Final Fours are "worth a shot. … It's been done successfully with tennis and the Olympics. Will there be enough coverage spread around that no one gets lost in the shuffle there? That's the question."
But many women's basketball fans disagree with the combined Final Four concept, knowing how a host city can make the women's event feel special on its own.
Blackshaw said there are weekly talks with the NCAA on how to create the best possible experience for teams in Minneapolis.
"We are a community that does support women's sports," Blackshaw said. "We have a fan base for the Minnesota Lynx and Gophers women's basketball, and other sports as well. We are a great next city for [the NCAA] in terms of the positive changes that will be made. We're thrilled."
Blackshaw is also the CEO and President of Minnesota Sports and Events, which launched a bus tour celebrating the upcoming 50th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark 1972 gender equity legislation.
The anniversary will join with the 2022 Women's Final Four activities. The tour started last Saturday at Vikings training camp, where fans interacted with Minnesota women's sports dignitaries and explored the custom-wrapped bus.
"We're so lucky that we're the 50th anniversary year because we can tie in this championship tour," Blackshaw said. "We've chosen 11 Title IX honorees whose images are on a bus that is going to different events. It's been amazing."