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With March Madness set to begin, Charlie Baker discusses new job as NCAA president on CNN

Greg Sankey, commissioner of the SEC, and Charlie Baker, president of the NCAA, sit courtside at the SEC Basketball Tournament on March 9 in Nashville, Tenn.Andy Lyons/Getty

Former Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, who recently started his new job as president of the NCAA, said Tuesday that the sports governing body is making strides toward reducing the spending disparity between women’s and men’s college sports.

During a CNN interview, host Chris Wallace noted the NCAA continues to spend twice as much on the men’s annual March Madness basketball tournament as the women’s competition and asked Baker, who in January left the governor’s office after two terms, “What are you going to do to equal that out?”

Baker said the NCAA is making a concerted effort to promote women’s sports.


“Well first of all, the NCAA did a fairly, third party did a fairly comprehensive study, made a bunch of recommendations, and many of those recommendations have been implemented,” Baker said, without citing specifics.

“And others are in the process of being implemented,” Baker continued, adding that the NCAA has “made some very significant investments in leveling the playing field on what I would call the student-athlete experience, on the men’s side and on the women’s side.”

Wallace pushed back.

“But they’re still spending twice as much on the men’s side as the women’s side in March Madness,” he said.

Baker said the NCAA is investing in this year’s women’s tournament “in a very significant way.”

“But we have a ton of work left to do on this. And it’s not just about basketball. It’s about volleyball, and softball, and a whole bunch of other championships as well.”

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament starts Thursday The women’s tournament begins the following day.

Baker’s first day as NCAA president was March 1.

“College sports is obviously going through a challenging period here with all kinds of things pushing and pulling on it, and I would like to think that you know I can solve some of those problems,” said Baker, who played college basketball at Harvard, told the Globe in a recent interview. “We’ll see.”


Baker, a former healthcare executive who also served as a Swampscott selectman and as former Governor Bill Weld’s health and human services secretary, told the Globe he has spent most of his professional career in service roles.

“I’m not uncomfortable with a lot of people with a lot of points of view yelling and screaming at me about what they think the right thing to do is,” Baker said. “Those all seem like pretty good qualifications for this job.”

The popular centrist Republican said the NCAA’s mission goes far beyond being a feeder program for pro sports.

“I think you’re still talking about a space in which 99.9 percent of the student-athletes who participate are not going to go pro,” said Baker. “I still believe it’s [about getting] an education because the vast majority — and I mean the vast majority — will be able to put that to work in a way that won’t involve playing professionally.”

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com.