The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team might be the best collegiate sports team ever, and they’re certainly one of the most dominant. On Sunday, they extended their winning streak to 88 games, trying the mark of UCLA’s men’s team of the early ’70s for the most consecutive wins in NCAA basketball history. They take on Florida State tonight in an attempt to win game 89.
The Lady Huskies already own the women’s record. Their head coach, Geno Auriemma, thinks his team is only getting so much press because they’re breaking a men’s record:
I just know there wouldn’t be this many people in the room if we were chasing a woman’s record. The reason everybody is having a heart attack the last four or five days is a bunch of women are threatening to break a men’s record, and everybody is all up in arms about it.
His team is threatening to break the record of the great John Wooden teams, and Auriemma says it polarizes fans:
All the women are happy as hell and they can’t wait to come in here and ask questions. All the guys that loved women’s basketball are all excited, and all the miserable [people] who follow men’s basketball and don’t want us to break the record are all here because they are [ticked].
Because we’re breaking a men’s record, we’ve got a lot of people paying attention. If we were breaking a women’s record, everybody would go, “Aren’t those girls nice, let’s give them two paragraphs in USA Today, you know, give them one line on the bottom of ESPN and then let’s send them back where they belong, in the kitchen.”
Much of Auriemma’s sentiment is over-the-top here, but is he right? When UConn broke the women’s record, there wasn’t nearly as much fanfare as there is now. Should it be more important for the team to break a men’s record? Men’s basketball and most other major collegiate sports are more popular, so, inevitably, that’s what records get measured against. Women’s basketball and men’s basketball are two separate arenas, and they should really just have their own records, but the comparison is inescapable.
Auriemma’s outrage might be a bit misplaced here, though. I doubt that anyone’s really up in arms about a women’s team breaking a men’s team’s record. Most of the people who place men’s basketball above women’s basketball just don’t care about the women’s sport. If anything, that’s what he should be upset about.
When his team tied the UCLA record on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, 15,232 people attended—the second-most ever for a women’s game at MSG, but nowhere near the sell-out a men’s game with the same stakes would produce. And that’s really what Auriemma’s problem is. His team is getting more attention than any other women’s team ever has, but despite that, they’re still way behind the men’s game.
What do you guys think? Is Auriemma right to be upset? Is this a gender problem? Is there a double standard? Or is this just a case of men’s basketball being more popular than women’s basketball? Should the two sports even be compared?
Let us know in the comments.
—Photo via Wikimedia Commons