CBS Celebrates Airing Men’s NCAA National Tournament, But Where Were the Women?

March Madness is typically reserved for collegiate basketball championships. While this year wasn’t any different, the women’s tournament was a challenge to find televised. CBS celebrated airing every round of the men’s tournament with their national coverage and even reserved a time slot for pre-game/post-game analysis. The women’s tournament on the other hand was a different story.

Not only did CBS air solely the men’s games, you could only find the women’s games on ESPN 2, or worse, ESPN U. AND, even if those channels covered the games, it was frequently on a show that moved back and forth between games, which meant that you could see portions of games but not always the whole game.

I understand that this probably came down to viewers.  The men’s tournament drew huge live audiences, and women’s basketball historically isn’t as supported as the men’s game. The issue is, women’s basketball never will become as supported without visibility. Until viewers can consistently see strong, talented examples of female athletes, people will not be excited to follow the occasional championship game that makes ESPN’s main channel.

Ultimately, this becomes an issue of gender preference. Audiences prefer the men’s game because we celebrate the high-flying dunks, but other aspects that get viewers excited are applicable to the women’s game too. Women have razzle-dazzle dribbling and passing skills, and I have seen some women that can flat out shoot the lights out of a gym. My point is, female basketball players are marketable to a television audience, but sports fans are not ready to witness women as athletes first and women second. As soon as we flip the channel and see that it is women’s basketball, we are socialized to assume it will be soft and nothing spectacular will happen.

The 2011 tournament was not only spectacular, but it hosted one of the best women’s basketball players, potentially the best ever, in UCONN’s Maya Moore. President Obama was even singing her praises. Gonzaga’s guard Courtney Vandersloot broke the points/assist record as well, making her the only player, male or female, to score 2000 career points and 1000 career assists. NBA great assist man, John Stockton, was in the house that night to see it.

These players are not soft, they are certainly marketable, and audiences need to meet them. Covering their stories and generating conversation about them tells little girls that there is room for them to be great athletes too. The lack of coverage not only keeps women in sports in that circular pattern of lack of visibility, it also goes to suggest that men playing basketball is status quo and any woman that chooses to take up the sport is out of the norm.

Just a side thought: because this happens in a collegiate forum, I am curious how Title IX applies, if at all? There are probably some good arguments for both sides on this one.

Does that mean CBS should be responsible for exposing audiences to more female athletes in order to create a more egalitarian society? No. Well, yes, but not alone. All channels covering sports should.  If CBS is going to air the men’s national collegiate basketball championship they should air the women’s championship. The decision not to do so was based on ratings, and the privilege to think it doesn’t matter. It matters probably more than anyone calling the shots at CBS Sports could’ve realized.


Photo from David Butler II/US Presswire


Penny C.
penny C6 years ago

Where indeed?

Armand F.
Armand F6 years ago

I am a big NCAA basketball fan, both women and men. I am also very fortunate to be able to get ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU on my satellite system. I watched most of the NCAA Women's Tournament as I do most years. I find the game much more entertaining and skillful than the men's game. I did write to ESPN to complain about the jumping around from game to game and they explained that it was based on the competitive score of the game. I find that to be a very weak answer. I will continue to watch the women's NCAA games faithfully because I enjoy watching skilled basketball player compete. I look forward to watching Maya as a pro also. She will do more to elevate the women's game than anyone has in many years.

Julie F.
Julie F6 years ago

always the issue w/ women's sports - which are usually just as fun to watch!

K s Goh
KS G6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Debi C.
Debi C6 years ago

Whew Nancy Roussy, lot of self-worth issues bubbling under the surface, there. Take it easy on yourself. Then maybe you'll start being a little nicer towards others.

Lindsey DTSW
.6 years ago

And actually female athletes are big draws and highly televised in some sports. Figure skating and gymnastics come immediately to mind. In figure skating, it's the ladies' competitions which draw the most viewers.

Lindsey DTSW
.6 years ago

A network shouldn't have to air something that's going to lose it money. And if the women's games were thought to be profitable, they'd definitely be aired on the major networks. The networks aren't there to do social work - but to make money for their shareholders.

Ellen Mccabe
Ellen m6 years ago

Boy, are you preaching to the choir on this one! I presently live in Seattle, and the U of W has a great womens team, but I used to live in Ct., about five miles from the UC campus in Storrs, so either way you look at it, or in my case couldn't because of basicly crap covererage, i'm a husky fan. Kind of a sweet deal, if you don't count the fact I only got to read about the games.....

Mick R.
Mick R6 years ago

I do believe that it comes down to viewership. Remember when US Women's Soccer caught the imagination of the nation? That doesn't happen that often with women's sports. When it does it will fuel more coverage. I watch women's college basketball mostly because my daughter played in HS and I generally like college sports better than pro. I actually saw quite a few games and also went to Cal Poly vs. Cal live (WNIT). While the women are good, I do find the men's game more exciting and watched much more of that group of games. I do believe that when the demand is there someone will fill the gap for coverage. Some of the guys seem a bit frantic in their objections to viewing women's sports and so I'd take them with a grain of salt.

Nancy Roussy
Nancy R6 years ago

It was not on television because nobody wants to see women playing basketball and the same goes for every other sports where women plays! Men are better and more fun to watch because they are better at sports and are more fun to watch play. I'll take tennis as an example since this is the sport where I saw (most of those times were not by choice...there were women matches before my players) many women play -- except the Williams sisters, Kim Clijsters, and a few others who are not playing anymore all of the women take more efforts into their appearance instead of their shape (except Nalbandian you dont see any fat men play tennis but you can find many fat women play tennis) and play; they are not forced to go to their matches with jewelry, a matching purse and all that crap so don't blame that on men and the media! Why should television channels put on women sports? Just to make you happy? Would you give them some of the money they lost while putting that crap on instead of something that would of been watched by a lot of people?