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Federal legislation would create commission to evaluate gender equity in NCAA

A trio of congresswomen says the NCAA and college sports leaders aren't doing enough to correct the inequity between men's and women's sports and introduced legislation Thursday designed to evaluate the source of the problem and provide solutions.

The NCAA has made insufficient progress in fixing some of the issues that came to light during last year's NCAA tournament, according to U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, Jackie Speier, D-California, and Mikie Sherrill, D-New Jersey. They co-wrote a federal bill that would lead to the formation of a 16-person commission tasked with reviewing the NCAA's actions and making policy recommendations to improve what Speier called the "caveman mentality that doesn't just insult our stellar women athletes, but violates Title IX."

The NCAA publicly apologized last March and paid for an independent review of gender equity issues after social media posts revealed a stark difference between the amenities and benefits received by men's and women's players during last year's tournaments. The NCAA made some changes heading into this year's tournaments -- which conclude this weekend with the Final Four games starting Friday night -- and said it plans to make more significant progress on the issue in the future.

Speier is a co-chair of the Democratic Women's Caucus, which met with prominent coaches and players from the women's game after last year's tournament. Maloney, who is the chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, co-authored a letter to NCAA president Mark Emmert earlier this month, writing that the association's response to concerns raised about last year's tournament was "lackluster" and that it had ignored similar recommendations at least four times during the past 30 years.

"NCAA leadership have not taken adequate steps to fix the problem," Maloney said in a release announcing the legislation. "Every student-athlete deserves to be treated fairly, and today we're taking an important step to holding the NCAA accountable to that standard."

The committee members would be selected by members of Congress and would include former college athletes and coaches as well as others with experience in college sports and Title IX matters.

The bill joins a list of nearly a dozen other proposals in the past two years for the federal government to provide some type of increased oversight over the NCAA and college sports. Earlier this week, a bipartisan pair of senators introduced a bill to reform the NCAA's enforcement process. On Wednesday, a group of Congress members hosted a series of panel discussions about NCAA reform issues, with gender equity among the topics of discussion.