Sally Jenkins at the Washington Post wrote a new article called “Women’s basketball needs to work to earn an audience.” Rather than make a blanket judgment against the game that reads likes a hate filled agitprop piece (like we’ve seen too much of from the jockocracy), Jenkins uses facts and figures to point out serious problems that threaten the sport of women’s college basketball.
It’s worth a thorough read. Here are some of the points that Jenkins makes:
According to NCAA data, scoring has dropped by eight points per game since 1982. What’s more, the average field goal percentage in the women’s college game has fallen steadily, and last season was at an all-time low of 38.9 percent.
The reason? Poor quality cheaply-paid officiating has transformed the game into a brawl, one far more physical than the NBA. There were fewer fouls called in the women’s game last season than at any time since the NCAA has kept the stat.
Another scandalous statistic: The women’s NCAA tournament loses more money than any other women’s Division I championship event. To repeat, despite sold-out arenas of close to 20,000, and healthy ESPN ratings and rights fees, the women’s NCAA tournament loses money. The reason? Incompetence again. Sheer mismanagement.
How is that possible? It’s possible because the powers that be, out of a silly allegiance to some lame idea of “equality” with the men’s game, have erected a ridiculously large cost structure. The sizes of travel parties and other amenities are just as large as those for the men’s tournament — but without the men’s revenues. The NCAA men’s tournament thrives on massive ticket sales in domed stadiums and more than $770 million annually in TV rights fees.
The women’s game is rife with this kind of fiscal insanity. Bloomberg News found that women’s basketball at 53 public universities in the six largest conferences had operating losses of $109 million in 2011, while men’s teams has operating profits of $240 million. Now, exactly how equal can women feel when their sport is not self-supporting?
Yet instead of growing, it has plateaued. And one reason for that, ironically, may be Title IX. According to Ackerman, the security of Title IX, which assures equal funding for women’s sports, may have stifled innovative thinking and fostered complacency.
[Val] Ackerman identified the 1990s as an “extraordinary growth period.” At places such as Texas and Tennessee, coaches such as Jody Conradt and Summitt built the game with ingenious promotions and brutal hard work. They were their own marketing directors. “They had to do it all — and they really mattered,” says Ackerman.
But the urgency to promote the game and sell tickets has somehow been lost. The fact is, too many women’s programs used Title IX as a protective shield. Ackerman says, “The mind-set of the past is, ‘What is our due under Title IX.’”
Among the ideas Ackerman would like to see explored: getting a grip on the ugly physicality of the game by upgrading officiating, “elevating the professionalism and bringing a business mind-set to ticket sales and television,” and exploring dramatic rule changes to make the game more exciting and faster-paced. Most interesting, Ackerman would like to see the NCAA explore putting the women’s NCAA Final Four together with the men’s — same city, same weekend, different arenas — to foster crossover audience expansion. Other NCAA sports, such as lacrosse, have that arrangement.
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This article is worth a few minutes of your day to read and consider.