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The Score - Anthony Schoettle

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Sports Business

NCAA offers shopping spree to men—but not women—in Final Four

March 23, 2016
KEYWORDS Sports Business

Each player on a men’s team in the Final Four in Houston this year will get a shopping-spree-like experience known in college sports circles as a gift suite.

The new offering will allow men’s players to pick seven items—including electronics and apparel as well as luggage and jewelry—likely valued at well over $500. The gift suite is sanctioned by the NCAA, and this year is the first time such a prize package has been offered to Final Four players.

Oddly, the same organization that has trumpeted Title IX from every mountaintop and hillside will not offer this new nicety to the players in the Women’s Final Four in Indianapolis next month.

Perhaps equality on this front will be achieved next year.

“The Men’s Final Four will be the first NCAA championship to have a gift suite. It is a pilot program being tested specifically on that championship for this year,” explained NCAA spokesman Cameron Schuh in an email to IBJ. “But moving forward, we will evaluate the possibility of including similar options at the Women’s Final Four and other potential NCAA championships.”

I don’t know much about pilot programs, but wouldn't it make sense to pilot it at the men’s and women’s events simultaneously?

A pilot program indicates it’s a test. I’m not sure what there is to test about giving college kids gifts. The results of that experience are pretty clear. We’re not testing mind-altering drugs here.

It’s not that the Women's Final Four contestants go home empty-handed. Participants in both the men's and women's tournaments get goodies—and have for several years. Following is a list of items each will get this year.

2016 Women’s Final Four gift list:

● Fossil Final Four watch

● Wilson bag

● Wilson mini basketball

● Final Four bench towel

● Final Four game ball inside a display cube

● Josten’s ring in a commemorative wooden display box

● Piece of Final Four court

● Lucite Women’s Final Four ticket

2016 Men’s Final Four gift list:

● Fossil Final Four watch

● Wilson Backpack

● Mini Wilson basketball

● Lucite Men’s Final Four ticket

● Final Four tumbler

● Final Four hat

● Josten’s ring in a commemorative wooden display box

● Final Four bench chair

But only the men will get the gift suite, an interactive shopping spree that’s been increasingly offered to participants in college football bowl games over the last decade.

The NCAA has hired Texas-based Performance Award Center, a broker between upscale brands and clients doling out gifts, to handle the gift suites.

For the Final Four, Performance Award Center will put together a range of items, and the Men’s Final Four players will get to choose seven.

Performance Award will set up an interactive experience for players inside Houston’s NRG Stadium—where the Final Four will be played—and players will be able to shop on Thursday or Friday before Saturday’s national semifinal games.

Though the NCAA doesn’t operate bowl games, it caps the value of gifts bowl participants can receive for playing in those postseason games at $550. But the NCAA puts no limit on the value of gifts it can provide in an NCAA-operated tournament.

Though the items in the gift suite are still being set, it’s safe to say that each player for a Men’s Final Four team—with the gift suite and the gifts listed above—could walk off with more than $1,000 in gifts.  

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