The NCAA announced Monday it is creating another women's college basketball tournament that it will operate like the men's NIT as a second option for 32 teams that do not make the NCAA tournament.
The Women's Basketball Invitation Tournament, which will debut this season, brings the men's and women's NCAA postseason opportunities to an equal number. An NCAA-operated second option for women was one of the key focuses of an external gender equity report on the NCAA.
Women's teams that didn't make the NCAA tournament in the past had the opportunity to play in an independently operated WNIT -- with a 64-team field -- in which teams bid to host games and paid most of their own travel expenses.
Hosting in that tournament could cost a school tens of thousands of dollars if they advanced far enough.
This past season was the 25th anniversary of that tournament, which saw Kansas beat Columbia for the championship. The WNIT released a statement on its website saying the tournament will continue with 48 teams next year.
"As the tournament moves forward, its commitment to providing a platform for teams and athletes to showcase their skills, fostering competition, and advancing the women's game will remain unchanged, ensuring a bright and promising future for women's basketball at the collegiate level," the statement said.
The Women's NIT has been a springboard for schools in the past to make NCAA runs after winning it. UCLA, Michigan, Indiana and Arizona all have won it in the past nine years.
"A lot of people are saying [the new tournament] is great for women's basketball," Seton Hall coach Tony Bozzella said. "But I'm not sure it is. With the WNIT and NCAA we had 132 teams, now we have 100. Is it better for women's basketball? We will see."
The Women's Basketball Invitation Tournament will lessen the financial burden on teams. It's unclear what will happen to the postseason WNIT.
The NCAA said it will come up with a selection committee, host sites, bracketing principles and the selection process later this summer.
"Women's basketball is at an all-time high with records being set for national championship and Final Four viewership, and the tournament was the most viewed since 2009," said Jamie Boggs, chair of the Division I Women's Basketball Oversight Committee. "This tournament will create an additional NCAA-funded postseason opportunity for women's basketball, and it comes at a time when we are seeing tremendous growth in popularity for women's basketball."