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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

PARISI: NCAA Tournament showed it’s time to give women’s basketball the respect it deserves

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(Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

Women’s college basketball is in the spotlight and it is here to stay. So it’s time to finally give it some respect.

For years, the argument has always been “no one watches women’s basketball” or “no one cares about this sport.” But now that cannot and should not be an argument for why women’s basketball is not getting respect or attention. 

This year alone, the women’s NCAA tournament ratings have gone up significantly. The first round saw an average of 257,000 viewers, which was a 27% increase from the 2022 tournament. The first round of the tournament also set an ESPN record for minutes watched with 875 million. And that’s just the first round, not even the championship game. 

The historic tournament continued as the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight brought even more viewers. The Friday and Saturday games saw an average 1.2 million viewers when No. 3 seed Ohio State knocked off No. 2 seed UConn. This surpassed an average of 2.4 million viewers on ABC. 

Then Caitlin Clark happened. 

The Elite Eight matchup between the No. 2 seeded Iowa Hawkeyes and five-seeded Louisville Cardinals saw an average of 2.5 millions viewers on ESPN. An Elite Eight record and happened to bring in more views than any NBA game on ESPN has this season. 

Not only did the NCAA see viewership records, but they also brought more fans than ever before in both the Seattle and Greenville regions. This is the first time that only two cities hosted the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight and both sites saw a combined 82,275 fans, the most ever and the first time the attendance number was above 70,000 since 2014.

So those are the facts.

It’s simple, the game is growing rapidly, so where is the respect?

Many people are still hesitant to give women’s basketball the flowers it deserves, but with the level of the competition and the view count, there is no reason why more games should not be aired on national television.

The looming question is should the women’s tournament get its own TV deal? And the answer is yes it should.

ESPN’s TV deal ends next year and the company has the rights to all NCAA Division I Tournaments except men’s basketball and football. The deal pays $32 million annually for women’s basketball and the 28 other championships combined, but some experts say that a separate deal for the women could be worth even more. Independent media expert Ed Desser estimated that the women’s tournament could be worth between $82 and $112 million dollars in 2025.

That right there is enough in itself as to why women should get their own television rights. The NCAA gets a combined $32 million with the deal they currently have, but the women’s tournament can generate three times as much as the current deal on its own.

People are watching the women’s tournament and it has been on the rise the last two years.

4.85 million people watched last year’s national championship game between UConn and South Carolina. And the game was fighting for air time with the Grammy’s and it still broke records.

That game was the most-watched college basketball game for men or women on ESPN since 2008.

Until Friday night when Aliyah Boston and Caitlin Clark went head to head for a spot in the national championship. This year’s Final Four was the most watched women’s college basketball semifinal across all ESPN platforms.

Both semifinal games averaged 4.5 million viewers, which was a 66% increase from last year. 

LSU and Virginia Tech drew an average of 3.4 million viewers, but the game of the hour, Iowa versus South Carolina brought in an average of 5.5 million viewers, which was the third most-watched women’s college basketball game on ESPN’s platforms.

And this year, the title game aired on ABC, the first time it was on network television since 1995. The views were record breaking as it drew in an averaging 9.9 million viewers, marking the most viewed women’s basketball game ever.

As a whole, the tournament set an all-time women’s attendance record with 357,542 total fans, with the championship game being a sellout with 19,482 fans in attendance.

This tournament has been one of the best in recent ages. Two (!) No. 1 seeds were knocked out in the first weekend. UConn snapped a streak of 14 consecutive Final Fours with a loss to Ohio State in the Sweet 16. A No. 5 seed made the Elite Eight and two No. 12 seeds pulled off first round upsets.

The talent is through the roof. Clark notched the first 40-point triple double in an NCAA Tournament during the Elite Eight. Aliyah Boston is dominating the field and Angel Reese has 34 consecutive double-doubles. 

Prominent head coach Dawn Staley has been fighting for the women’s tournament to have its own TV deal the entire tournament and she has a point.

If you build it, they will come. And people want to watch women’s basketball, so when the NCAA decides what to do next year, the answer should be clear.

Give the women their own television rights to the tournament and let them stay in the spotlight they so much deserve.

This story was written by Kristin Parisi. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @kristinparisimu.

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About the Contributor
Kristin Parisi, MUTV Executive Sports Producer
Kristin Parisi is the the MUTV Executive Sports Producer. She is a senior from Ellicott City, Maryland, studying journalism and minoring in digital media. In her free time Kristin loves hanging out with her friends and family. She loves binge-watching TV shows as well as watching all kinds of sports. She also loves going for long drives while blasting music and exploring nature. This year, Kristin is looking forward to making award-winning content while making the most of her last year at Marquette and the Wire.

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