Not only has Tegan Graham helped lead the BYU women’s basketball team into the NCAA Tournament, but she is also passionate about raising the profile of women’s college sports.

The No. 6-seeded Cougars face No. 11 Villanova Saturday (11 a.m. MST, ESPN News) at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. 

Last March, the disparity between the men’s NCAA Tournament and the women’s NCAA Tournament was brought into sharp focus.

Oregon forward Sedona Prince posted a video of the women’s tournament weight room in San Antonio, which consisted of a single set of dumbbells. The video also showed the men’s weight room in Indianapolis, filled with rows of weights and training equipment. 

That viral video shed light on gender equity, and it prompted an apology by the NCAA.  

Later, a report released by a law firm hired by the NCAA to look into gender disparities confirmed the stark differences between the men’s championships and the women’s championships. 

Changes have been implemented in this, the 40th anniversary of the women’s tournament. 

This year’s version is being dubbed “March Madness,” just like the men’s. That “March Madness” bracket logo will be stamped everywhere in the women’s tournament, just like the men’s. 

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Plus, the women’s tournament field was expanded to 68 teams and there is a First Four, just like the men’s tournament.

Critics say it’s a step in the right direction, but much more must be done.

For Graham, this is an issue she’s explored extensively and she’s using her platform to raise awareness. She witnessed the lack of resources at last year’s women’s NCAA Tournament when the Cougars beat Rutgers in the first round, then fell to Arizona.

Graham, who hails from New Zealand, recently completed her master’s thesis about this topic and she has a podcast called “Second Class Citizens,” which is available on Spotify and Apple Podcast. 

“It looks at gender equity in Division I sports,” Graham said. 

Graham appreciates the improvements that have been made on behalf of the women’s tournament. 

“I’m really excited by that. Big things are coming in that area. There are going to be big changes, especially this tournament. There’s a lot of pressure on the NCAA to drastically improve from last year’s tournament, which everyone knows about the weight room and the disparities,” Graham said. “It’s just having the bigger conversation about promotion and women’s coverage and investment.

“Asking all the big questions about why women don’t get more. There’s a long way to go but that conversation is vital right now to make sure the conversation is still being had with people that have the power and influence to make change.”

BYU guard Tegan Graham moves around Portland forward Liana Kaitu’u (23) in 2022 WCC Women’s Basketball Tournament semifinals at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Monday, March 7, 2022. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

BYU coach Jeff Judkins is grateful for the efforts to make the women’s NCAA Tournament more like the men’s. 

“It’s a big plus. It’s so exciting to be able to have a lot of the same things as the men. These ladies deserve it. They work hard. They do whatever it takes,” he said. “It’s becoming way more popular in the female game. More crowds, more support. Better coaches. The players are a lot better and TV exposure. It’s exciting to be part of it. Twenty years ago, when I started, it was like it is right now. It’s just going to keep on growing.”

Judkins supports Graham’s podcast and willingness to be outspoken about gender equity and he also appreciates all of her contributions to BYU’s program. 

“She wants to go into broadcasting. I’m trying to talk her into going into coaching because she’d be a great coach,” Judkins said. “She’s a lot of fun. What you see is what she is. She’s a great leader. So many teams don’t have somebody like that, that pulls them and gets them organized. She does that. That’s where she’s going to be missed the most next year. Yeah, her jump shot’s great and her passing’s great. But that leadership is something else. That’s why I think she should coach.”

For now, Graham is hoping to end her Cougar career on a high note at the new-look women’s NCAA Tournament. 

NCAA Tournament

No. 6 BYU (26-3)

vs. No. 11 Villanova (23-8)

Saturday, 11 a.m. MST

Crisler Center

Ann Arbor, Michigan


Radio: BYU Radio/1160 AM