In 1940, the University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball team played Fordham University at Madison Square Garden. This stood in as the first televised college basketball game. In 1975, although women’s basketball was televised for the first time, most viewers turned off the game by halftime.
Men’s college basketball was granted a headstart on national television. Viewers got accustomed to watching them, thus believing they were better players than women. Television and news companies have bombarded viewers with men’s sports across all platforms, and provided little exposure to women’s games. Society has been indoctrinated to believe women’s sports are inferior.
To compare these two leagues is unfair. In order for women to gain the support they deserve, women need the same attention that men have gotten since 1940. Once viewers can see both leagues being represented, they can decide who they want to watch.
Possibly, the blame for this inequity should be put on television networks for perpetuating a sexist view of women’s sports. The men’s NCAA tournament has a deal with CBS, with a latest extension including $8.8 billion. In her article, “March Madness Faced a Gender Reckoning. Now Everyone Gets a Pasta Station—but What Else,” Emma Baccellieri, a writer for Sports Illustrated, says that the women’s ability to land a similar figure can’t be guaranteed. However, she also emphasizes that they’ve never been granted the chance to try. On record, the women’s NCAA media coverage is in a package with several other sports, with an average of an annual $34 million. Baccellieri suggests that by neglecting to recognize the earning potential of the women’s tournament, the NCAA let millions of dollars disappear. In this aspect alone, the WNCAA platform is given little room for growth.
In response to this disparity in the media, the women of the NCAA have demanded more equal treatment. However, having to fight for baseline equality is anything but reasonable. It should not require a severe outcry and money spent on analysis to recognize that women should be treated equally. At the Final Four, the women are now expected to receive a lounging area similar to the men’s, instead of the unequal rooms they were granted previously.
The NCAA continually has “no update,” so there’s no telling when women will get held to the standard they deserve. Some suggest holding the Final Four in the same location for the women’s and men’s team, in hopes for the same publicity.
The NCAA makes sure to promote that women will receive gifts that the men’s team has received as well. This recognition is very important for the evolution of equality in sports, though the regular season has evident gaps and remains unaltered. Gifts and exclusive treatment are appreciated, though not as a replacement for the true lack of coverage.
Shantell Jeter, the junior varsity girls basketball coach at the high school, believes that sports are evolving, however not at the pace women deserve. Jeter played a year of college basketball at Lasell College, where she experienced first hand the level of commitment and expectation the sport requires. Jeter began working at the high school in the 2020-2021 season and loves supporting the girls’ team.
“Women get less opportunities, and are always being short changed,” said Jeter.
Jeter thinks women get less opportunities in the sports world, and it’s a part of her job to ensure that her students receive the appreciation that they deserve. Jeter teaches her girls to stand up for themselves and know their worth, potential, and skills as they navigate the disparities in womens and mens sports. She emulates strength when corresponding with other coaches, and never gives up court time when it’s rightfully hers.
“From my own personal history, the boys’ teams always had more people. It’s just what it is. I think a lot of people think about girls basketball and girls athletes as less than. But I think that’s just what it’s been. I think it’s changing, and I think the girls programs are growing. At some point I think it will be more level. But right now it definitely is not,” said Jeter.
Despite the ongoing disparities between men’s and women’s sports, it is important to note the progress towards equality. After pushback, the NCAA Division I Women’s teams will receive equal weight rooms and practice space that the men’s team have.
A simple online search of “March Madness” results in the NCAA women’s basketball brackets and game history. As small as this is, it shows bigger corporations making an effort to highlight the women teams. Before the playing field can be equal, women deserve their moment and need extra coverage.
Dan Shaughnessy, a sports writer for The Boston Globe, is famous for his articles on specific sports highlights. Even more so, he’s famous for his “and other thoughts” portion of his articles where he addresses systematic issues relating to sports in society. Shaughnessy promotes his appreciation for specific women’s sports, such as softball and tennis, and not women’s basketball.
“Just please just don’t insist — in the name of equality — that the WNBA get the same attention as the NBA, or that the NCAA women’s hoop tournament would generate the same interest as the men’s tourney if only it got the same coverage,” said Shaughnessy.
The women’s college teams have had great records, and produce some of the best players in the league. Regardless of this, these women aren’t seen as much due to their lack of coverage.
Shaughnessy said, “Coverage reflects interest. It’s not the media’s job to generate interest with coverage. All athletes and leagues are worthy. But folks like what they like.”
Although coverage does reflect interest, how can viewers know what they like if they never see it? It may not be the media’s job to generate the interest, that is the viewers responsponsibility. However, it is the media’s job to represent every group in society.
Reporting, not just television and large media corporations, needs to highlight the progress women have made in regards to equal pay, benefits, and their overall presence. Title IX is a law stating that colleges can’t exclude women from any activity, which includes sports. In Genevieve Carlton’s article, “How Title IX Impacts Women’s Equality in College Athletics,” she says,
“Title IX increased access to women’s sports at the collegiate level. With the 50-year anniversary of Title IX fast approaching, a look back shows how far women’s sports have come — and the fight for equality that remains.”
Not many people know of Title IX, as it isn’t publicized very often. This law greatly impacted women’s sports as a whole and is exactly what society needs to make visible progress going forward.
To take the first steps into a better society, laws such as Title IX need to be more well known, appreciated, and, most importantly, utilized, and the media needs to recognize the talent they are missing by ignoring women’s sports teams.