The 2020-21 NCAA women's basketball season has come to a close, but one of the Final Four coaches wants the excitement to keep going.
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley published an op-ed with USA Today on Monday, one day after Stanford defeated Arizona to win the national championship. The game concluded one of the most exciting tournaments in recent memory, and also one of the most successful. Ratings for women's basketball were strong throughout the tournament, and social media engagement has been even stronger.
Now, Staley wants the NCAA to invest even more in women's basketball, just like it invested in men's basketball so many years ago:
That fight and strength is what we need to grow our game. You know what else we need? Investment — from everyone. We need to think about women’s basketball like the stock market: it grows over time, and you have to put something in to see a return on your investment. And we’ll have dips just like the stock market. But we’re worth it. The men’s NCAA Tournament is now a billion-dollar industry, but it didn’t start there. The leaders in men’s basketball, they forgot the grind it took to get them there. We’re ready to grind. And if you invest in us, the return will be astronomical.
The 2020-21 postseason was notable for the inequities between the men's and women's tournaments that came to light, most notably the comically ill-equipped weight rooms that set off a social media firestorm. NCAA president Mark Emmert has promised the organization will do better in the future.
Social media has become a major asset in fighting for more equitable resources for women's basketball, but Staley said that there's a need for more investment in the lower levels as well:
We need to pour into young women and girls at every level, not just college and the WNBA. I go watch my godsons play in local AAU ball, they’re freshmen and eighth graders, and I see how people invest in them. Look at the money we put into young men, even though most of them will never go pro. You’ve got dads coaching, moms running around the gym, parents who are passionate and yelling at officials, officials yelling back — imagine if we put that same investment, that same passion, into young girls. Now, I’m not saying all the energy is positive but at least it’s there, and we can get it moving in the right direction.
The whole op-ed is worth reading for a road map on uplifting women's college basketball — and how difficult that fight can be when preparing to play in some of the biggest games of your lives.
Plenty of others have at least taken notice, including Reddit co-found Alexis Ohanian, who offered to take the women's tournament off the NCAA's hands if it isn't going to invest in it.
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