Even at Elite Programs, Ticket Prices for Women's Basketball Lag Behind Men's, Report Says

October 05, 2009

Just in time for college basketball season, a report is urging athletics departments to abandon their longstanding practice of charging less for tickets to women's basketball games than to men's games.

The report, "Ticket Office Sexism: The Gender Gap in Pricing for NCAA Division I Basketball," was published by the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. It presents data that rebut a "popular but faulty" argument that colleges charge less for women's games than for men's because those events fail to draw comparable crowds—or because the women's teams rank lower than the men's teams.

Among the top 25 men's and women's teams, the report says, colleges charged nearly three times as much, on average, for single-game seats for men's games. The disparity was even greater for season tickets, with the average highest-priced package at $233 for women and $2,500 for men.

"Colleges charge a premium for admission to see males play, even when women's basketball teams are ranked as among the very best performers in the nation," write the authors, Laura Pappano and Allison J. Tracy, both of the Wellesley Centers for Women. By charging less for admission to highly ranked women's games, the authors say, athletics departments engage in "institutional discrimination that is camouflaged as sensible economic practice."

The report analyzed ticket prices at every level, from single-game to season tickets, at 292 Division I colleges. The results showed that ticket prices for women's games lagged far behind those for men's games at the same institution at all of the top 25 women's basketball programs in the country—even at colleges where the men's team ranked lower than the women's team.

At some programs where both the women's and men's programs are highly ranked, the price gap was even more significant, the report says.

At the University of Connecticut, where the women's basketball team has won six NCAA championships and has a famously loyal fan base, single-game tickets are $22 for women's games. Single-game tickets for the men's team, which lost in the national semifinals this past spring, are $30.

"Tradition and history dictate the cost of the ticket," a spokesman for the Connecticut athletics department, Mike Enright, was quoted as saying in the report. "Historically, the women's tickets have always been a little less expensive than the men's tickets," he said.

"It's really a factor of … history and tradition—and not that the women's team doesn't have a great history and tradition—but the history of ticket pricing."

The report can be purchased on the centers' Web site.