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Do the Maryland Women Deserve More Coverage?


By Toni L. Sandys - TWP


"Why does the less-than-stellar University of Maryland men's basketball team rate a 17-paragraph article on two pages, while the Lady Terps, who have had an outstanding season, are relegated to a four-paragraph box on Page D12? Once again, The Post makes clear its bias toward men's sports."

This was a letter to the editor from Mary C. Massey, published in The Post on March 7. It just as easily could have been published on March 7 of last year, or the year before, or the year before that. As long as I can remember, March Madness means, among other things, questions like this one printed on the letters page. I got one in my inbox just this morning, asking why there was no equivalent of the Feinstein/Kornheiser/Wilbon bracket analysis for the women's draw, even when you look at our women's bracket. But the issue isn't whether the media is or should be biased toward men's sports; the issue is how great that bias should be.

So is this the right spot to point out that the Maryland women won the ACC title, earned a top seed, and are national title contenders, while the Maryland men got shot off the floor by second-seeded Memphis?

"I love our men's team, but we're clearly doing better than they are," Marissa Coleman said last night, when I asked about the coverage disparity. "You know, we're used to it. We're used to women taking the back seat. You look at the ACC tournament, how well we did, and there was hardly any local TV stations or anybody there....We're used to it. We're gonna keep doing what we do. The media? That's for the fans to pay attention to, for them to keep up with. We're not worried about that; we're worried about getting championships."

Now look, we all know--players included--that this isn't exactly a controversial call. Sports bars fill with fans watching the men's tourney. Everyone in America, plus some Ukrainians, fills out a bracket. ESPNews covers it non-stop. And I'll also say that The Post has done tons of stuff with the Maryland women, including a massive above-the-fold photo on A1 today (after the Terps won big in the opening round last night), and the centerpiece story in today's sports section. Also, to get it out of the way, you'll note that I've written exactly zero words about women's basketball this season before last night. So I'm no front-line crusader for equal coverage, by any means.

All that being said, I was surprised by the media turnout for yesterday's first-round games in College Park. The Post had three writers in Philadelphia, all of whom wrote about the AU men's predictable opening-round loss, plus three more writers in Kansas City for the Maryland men. We had one writer in College Park to write about the Maryland women's' (more) predictable opening-round win, a game that was a Metro ride from the office. (That's not counting me, since I sort of went on a whim, and because I thought I could get some Web traffic out of it.)

"It is what it is," Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said, in the perfect coach answer to the coverage question. "You read the paper, you watch SportsCenter. We're in a male-dominated society. I'm grateful for the coverage that we DO get, and we've gotten great coverage this year from The Post. We've had front-page articles. I think they've been really really good to us and the team and the program. I understand newspapers have a business. They've got to sell papers. If there was more coverage, maybe they wouldn't sell as much. I don't know."

(None of the Terps were going around campaigning for coverage; I was the one bringing it up.)

Even worse, the Baltimore Sun--which wrote a staff editorial asking why more people weren't cheering the Terps' ACC title--hasn't even covered the team all season, instead using Post writer Camille Powell's copy.

"Even down to our school newspaper, it's a pretty clear difference," Maryland's Drey Mingo told me. "But we just keep coming and working hard, and our fans support us, so that's a good thing."

For the record, we also get constant complaints about not covering, say, collegiate wrestling. But that one's easy: wrestlers don't consistently draw, and they're not on TV. The Terps women ARE on TV; Mike Patrick was there calling yesterday's games. As for attendance? Try an average of 8,805. The American men? Let's see, 1,933.

Or how about Web traffic? All the numbers are fairly modest, but when the Maryland women won the ACC title (on a Sunday), the story that day and the next got about 65 percent more Web traffic on our site than when the American men won the Patriot League (on a Friday), and about 185 percent more traffic than when the Mason men lost the CAA final (on a Monday). The former did not merit a column, but both of the latter did.

So I guess I do wonder why yesterday wasn't a bigger deal, why there were so many empty media chairs, and why Saturday's open media session attracted a tiny handful of local media members. Maybe it's because everyone knew top-seeded Maryland would roll over 16th-seeded Dartmouth. Maybe it's because the men's games were on at the same time. I also wonder why I stop paying attention to the Terps women until March every year, and then suddenly get all interested again once the tourney begins.

"It's a mannnnnn's world," Marah Strickland said with a laugh. "My brother [Marshall] played college basketball. I was a big fan of his. So being that I was a great fan of men's basketball and men's athletics, I just pray that one day it can be equal. I think that would be a great goal for us."

"We love our men's program, and we're all friends or whatever, but it's clear that the women's program is thriving," Emery Wallace said, leaving out the other side of that equation. "But the men are still getting all the fans and still getting all the coverage."

"The men's game has been around longer and has been popular longer," Coleman told me. "You come here, you're not gonna see somebody jumping over somebody [else] and dunking a ball. But Ive had many people come up to me and say that they never liked women's basketball, but they came and watched us play and now they're hooked. I think it just really takes coming to one game and being able to see how well we do play, and that it's not just this boring, fundamental game, that we DO make it exciting."

Several of the Terps said that their coverage has improved markedly in the past several years. They said they think that's a national trend, and that more kids on campus seem interested than before. If the Terps win another national championship, would the coverage change further? Would it even start to resemble that of the men?

"You know, that's a difficult question," Frese said. "It's improved. It's improved, greatly, since we've won the national championship. It's never gonna be equal to the men. I'm happy that it's improved, it definitely has done that. When you're successful and when you win, people want to read it and follow it. I get that."

My favorite answer to all of these questions probably came from Kristi Toliver. This shows you that men's stars and women's stars are, at heart, the same.

"Well, I don't read the paper, so you're asking the wrong person," she said. Zing!

"I try to stay away from all that stuff," she continued. "I think men's coverage in sports is obviously more than women's. It's on TV, the news, whatever. I think that's just an automatic. Do I think it should be like that? No, obviously. I'm a little biased maybe, but I think we have a great team, we're successful and we're fun to watch."

By Dan Steinberg  |  March 23, 2009; 2:24 PM ET
Categories:  College Basketball , Media , Terps  
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Comments

No one cares about women's basketball. I'm not saying it's right, I'm just saying it's true. You're not getting coverage because no one cares.

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 23, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

See Duff, I don't agree. This entry was ungodly long, so I'd understand if you skimmed, but I noted above that the Terps women draw WAY more fans, and WAY more WashPost.com Internet clicks, than the AU men. Not even close. But the AU men definitely seemed to get more local media attention than the Maryland women last week.

Maybe it's just because everyone assumes the Terps women will still be around next week, and the coverage monsoon will start then. But based on what numbers we have, they should be getting more coverage than the AU men, not less.

Posted by: DanSteinberg1 | March 23, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Either the Duff or the Va. Tech education has impaired your reading comprehension skills. The whole point of this post - or at least a major point - is that actually, a lot of people care. You know, based on attendance figures, Web traffic, etc. Not as much as they care about Hoyas or Terps men, but probably more than they care about most other local teams. But why let facts stand in the way of good old-fashioned close-mindedness?

Posted by: MoMonroe | March 23, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

no.
womens sports is booooring

Posted by: jonthefisherman | March 23, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

of couse i don't care about basketball (mens or womens)anyway and i hate all things maryland so my opinion probably doesn't matter

Posted by: jonthefisherman | March 23, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Dan,

I skimmed. I'll go back and re-read the whole thing, but everytime I landed it seemed like it was a Terp Women's player whining about doing better than the men but getting less coverage.

That said, based on your reply, I'd argue that the Terps may be an outlier, but in general the Men's Game/Men's Tournament are bigger than the Women's Tournament. While AU itself might not have the clicks, etc. The story of little AU making it to the Big show (twice in a row now) is a bigger story.

That, and, like you said, AU's out, MD Men are out. This is just like it was last year (although GTown was a story). We got lots of UMD Women's Coverage.

My inital reply was in a holistic sense. In general, people don't care about women's basketball.

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 23, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

While they don't get a lot of love in the print, I'm pretty excited about the coverage that the Lady Terps get on CSN.

Some of the traditional women's basketball hotbeds are places like Tennessee, La. Tech and more recently UConn. Some of these schools gained recognition for their women's programs years before their men's programs were successful.

What happens when a school has success on both sides at the same time? I'm not sure, but you could talk to that school in Durham....

Dan, you should try to head down to the Women's ACC tourney next year. I think you'd enjoy that.

Posted by: stevorama1 | March 23, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Duff, whatever you think about the substance, the women weren't whining. I brought it up, I asked the questions, and they answered, always while saying they didn't hold it against the men.

It's my question, not theirs.

Posted by: DanSteinberg1 | March 23, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

I think the Terps women get high attendance because (a) they are successful at a (b) school that likes sports. While the AU men don’t have good attendance, they did get picked for one of the nation’s most popular tournaments, so they get the benefit of the tournament’s popularity. The women’s tournament, on the other hand, is not nearly as popular. So I’m not sure the regular season attendance comparison says much. What, for instance, is the coverage comparison between the two teams during the regular season?

Why is the men’s tournament so much more popular? I think it’s because it’s just more interesting and exciting. People want to see the best available athletes and those are the men. That might sound old-fashioned, but a male basketball player is more athletically gifted than a female basketball player. And while the female player is still incredibly skilled and could school every Sports Bog commenter, it’s all relative and the men are still better.

Posted by: AndrewKB | March 23, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse


The Caps say "we feel your pain" to the lady terps.

Posted by: metatext | March 23, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

The only reason AU got a lot of coverage was because they were in the NCAA tourney. No one cared about AU basketball during the regular season, in fact my guess is there was a whole lot more ink written on the MD women than the AU men during the reg. season. Am I wrong, Steinz?

Posted by: Barno1 | March 23, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

"always while saying they didn't hold it against the men."

"Whining" was perhaps a poor choice of words. That said, they all kept saying the same thing and in print (to me) it came off as disingenous. Kind of like when one's mom rips into one of the neighbors, only to say "bless his heart" afterward as if that made it OK.

I took issue with the few "It's a man's world" type of comments because they came off as "If it weren't for stupid men, people would watch us" and I can't agree with that, and to me, it does come off as "whiny."

My fiancee loves the Men's NCAA Tourney, and is bored skinless with Women's basketball, how does that fit into the "Man's World" mantra?

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 23, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

One of the reasons there is less local media coverage of the UMd women vs. the AU men is likely because none of the local mainstream media have a vested interest in promoting the UMd women.

Local CBS affiliate WUSA/9 televised the AU NCAA game and thus had a vested interest in talking up the Eagles, the same with news radio WTOP which aired AU on its AM signal.

On the other hand, the women's NCAA tournament is televised entirely via a family of cable channels based in Connecticut. As for radio, what radio? WJFK aired a limited selection of regular season games but come postseason, the Lady Terps can only be accessed via a student outlet.

Until the local media has more financial incentive to care about the progress of Maryland women's basketball, don't expect it to give the product more than a passing glance.

Posted by: evwill | March 23, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Wait till Brenda doesn't make the tournament, then the Post will do a three part series on how she can' recruit.

Posted by: terps78 | March 23, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Hey John, why don't you go fish somewhere and leave the comments to people who do care. Dan, thank you for re-inforcing the lesson that it's better to have people think you are a fool than to prove it by speaking. (without even truly knowing what you are talking about.) If you want to comment, read the article so you can get the facts straight. Andrew, are you kidding? More physically gifted? It is a different game, but no less athletic or physically challenging, or intense. Maybe if all of the women revealed their cup sizes like Candace Parker did for ESPN the magazine, they'd get more coverage. It's sad, but sports is a man's world. Thank you to the guys who can get past the looks and appreciate the athletes. GO TERPS!

Posted by: TerpsfanstuckinNC | March 23, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I don't think the men's game/women's game side-by-side comparison has ever made any sense because the two are inherently different. Sure, they are both basketball, in the same way that NASCAR and F1 are both racing. I personally could not care a whit about good ol' boys making four consecutive left turns, but that's just me.

WCB hasn't yet reached that place where a compelling event caused massive interest to tip their way. The men's game had Bird vs. Magic, which then shortly thereafter elevated the pro game. Pistons/Bulls kept it cooking. Pittsburgh/Dallas in the 70s?

The WNBA hasn't found it. The NHL might really be finding it, and it's taken them years (and it's not Crosby.) The XFL and EliteXC demonstrated that marketing alone won't make a sport; you have to have a good product. I think WCB qualifies as "good", but it's on a slow roll until you can get two protagonists.

Tennessee/UConn would have been good except that Pat Summitt decided she didn't want to play any more. What would have done it is if UT/UConn were forced to play home and away every season. (But now now, since UT sux.)

Posted by: info_stuporhighway | March 23, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

that should be "not now."

Posted by: info_stuporhighway | March 23, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

sorry i can't help that i am an a**hole

oh yeah eff maryland

Posted by: jonthefisherman | March 23, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Dan,

Thanks for writing about this. Every man that has a daughter should care about this issue. No one expects equality at this point, but maybe 90/10 instead of 99/1 might be nice.

Women sports should be marketing to Dads and Moms with daughters. But the media plays a role too. It becomes a chick and egg thing, but it's hard to generate interest without coverage.

Posted by: Dougmacintyre | March 23, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Andrew, are you kidding? More physically gifted? It is a different game, but no less athletic or physically challenging, or intense.
Posted by: TerpsfanstuckinNC | March 23, 2009 3:45 PM

I'm not kidding and I don't think your comment addresses my point. I'm talking about why people don't watch women's sports as much, not whether it's just as hard for a woman to compete against a skilled woman as it is for a man to compete against a skilled man. The fact is, the male competition is at a higher level in viewer terms.

You can argue that the men's and women's games shouldn't be compared side by side, but they are by a lot of people.

And I'm saying this as a guy who used to watch the women's final four every year but not the men's final four. Why? I'm a romantic who liked watching people compete for the sake of competing with no possibility of cashing in on it (this was pre-WNBA). But I always knew that if I was looking to watch college basketball at the highest level, I'd be watching the men's tournament.

Posted by: AndrewKB | March 23, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Andrew, are you kidding? More physically gifted? It is a different game, but no less athletic or physically challenging, or intense.

Posted by: TerpsfanstuckinNC | March 23, 2009 3:45 PM

Have any of you ever seen a woman do a 360 dunk? Yeah, neither have I.

Posted by: Barno1 | March 23, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

I thought women's basketball was a joke until I actually saw a Maryland game a few years ago. These girls can play. They play solid fundamental basketball. It's not as flashy as the men, but it is definitely entertaining.

Posted by: terpin | March 23, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Dan, thanks for bringing this up. I'd love to see more coverage of the women's game. I once was so frustrated by the lopsided coverage that I was going to boycott the Post's advertisers. Then I looked through the ads in the sports section and realized I wouldn't be frequenting those places ("spas", "swedish massage") anyway, so it wouldn't have an impact.

Wish I had the answer to this dilemma, but I think the players got it right. If they keep doing what they are doing and continue to be successful, the rest will come.

Maybe Obama will come to a game one of these days...I know that would make KT happy!

One last comment to those of you who think no one likes women's basketball and that it's boring: Please stay home so that I can use your seat as a coat chair. Alas, the Maryland women's games get more crowded every year and I don't like sitting on my coat.

Posted by: krae-kartoons | March 23, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

If you decide to watch Maryland play Dartmouth, I can understand if you think it's boring. But watch a Maryland-UNC game; it's incredibly physical and lots of fun to watch. The problem isn't that the women's game is inherently boring. It's that there is such a huge divide between the upper echelon and least skilled teams. Too many blowouts. Too many boring games.

Posted by: ICBomber | March 23, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

The Terps 3-day run to the ACC Tournament Championship was as exciting a weekend of games as I've ever seen--men or women. Those games were freakin off the hook. And also Kristi Tollivers performance against Duke at home during the regular season was one for the ages--again men or women.
This team can ball.

Posted by: dovelevine | March 23, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

for those who dismisses this entirely as "womens basketball is boring compared to mens basketball" all I can think is that baseball is boring compared to a sport like hockey. But guess what? Baseball is still a great sport to watch, so long as you aren't expecting any hip checks while running between bases.

Posted by: free_spoons | March 23, 2009 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps people fear the truth about Kristi Toliver.

http://www.stetsports.com/2008/10/23/kristi-toliver-facts/

Posted by: StetSportsBlog | March 23, 2009 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Is Brenda related to Sloan Payne-Rutter?

Posted by: rdpinva | March 23, 2009 7:01 PM | Report abuse

"The Terps women ARE on TV; Mike Patrick was there calling yesterday's games. As for attendance? Try an average of 8,805. The American men? Let's see, 1,933.

Or how about Web traffic? All the numbers are fairly modest, but when the Maryland women won the ACC title (on a Sunday), the story that day and the next got about 65 percent more Web traffic on our site than when the American men won the Patriot League (on a Friday), and about 185 percent more traffic than when the Mason men lost the CAA final (on a Monday). The former did not merit a column, but both of the latter did."

Awesome! Our lady Terps are more popular than AU and GMU's men's teams.

I think that there should be more coverage, but I have also been pretty happy lately to walk by newspaper stands and see the lady terps on the front page (of the Washington Times today for example).

Posted by: magnuson | March 23, 2009 9:15 PM | Report abuse

If you decide to watch Maryland play Dartmouth, I can understand if you think it's boring. But watch a Maryland-UNC game; it's incredibly physical and lots of fun to watch. The problem isn't that the women's game is inherently boring. It's that there is such a huge divide between the upper echelon and least skilled teams. Too many blowouts. Too many boring games.

True but

Here is a FACT - when Chris Evert was no. 1 or 2 and married to John Lloyd ranked at 120+ and in her words - "He beats my brains out every time we play"

At the end of the day, the women are not as talented as the men but we will continue to support them!

Posted by: tradervic1313 | March 23, 2009 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Just throwing my two cents in here. I generally don't care about basketball either way, but come March, I can't help but watch as much Men's NCAA as I can. Women's basketball doesn't do it for me, and I can't express why, but I will say that I'd rather read about the AU men's team making The Dance than anything about any women's basketball team, amateur or professional. I can't stand watching NBA games, but I'll watch any decent NCAA men's game. Part of it is watching 20 kids, most of whom know this is their last chance at stardom before they ride a desk, but part of it is that it's just enjoyable. I can't get into women's basketball, WNBA or NCAA, period. It has nothing to do with sex, it just doesn't engage me. Take this as you will, but there are a lot of people out there that just can't get excited about women's basketball. Soccer on the other hand.....

Posted by: ncromcr | March 24, 2009 3:35 AM | Report abuse

I won't say I watch the games, but it is good to hear that they are doing well. I'm all for more coverage when we have an area team that is on top.

Posted by: C-A-P-Scapscapscaps | March 24, 2009 6:01 AM | Report abuse

Short answer to title of blog post: Yes.

I have been mostly a well-wisher of the Terps women before this season, but I found their ACC tournament run highly entertaining, complete with a tense triumph over Duke (rather than a 41-point blowout by Duke). I plan to watch at least some of their ritual dismantling of Utah tonight.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | March 24, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Barno1,

360 dunk by a high school girl
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mx8ktfa0nLA

I'm disappointed college wrestling was brought into this. Of course I enjoyed the ACC tournament in Blacksburg the other weekend(which Maryland won) and this past weekend the NCAA tournament was on ESPN. Quite a few ACC wrestlers represented well. I believe seven wrestlers in the field were from the state of Virginia.

Regarding the actual topic of this thread... yeah. They deserve more, but so do a lot of things around here.

Posted by: sitruc | March 24, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

"Here is a FACT - when Chris Evert was no. 1 or 2 and married to John Lloyd ranked at 120+ and in her words - "He beats my brains out every time we play"

At the end of the day, the women are not as talented as the men but we will continue to support them"

Although entitled to your opinion, both of these comments are generalized and irrelevant. To imply that the women's #1 or #2 player could not beat/or even compete with a random male player is just absurd. UConn, MD, Stanford would beat the hell out of a large amount of men's teams. A large portion of the higher ranked women's athletes played or play pickup games with men. The fact that men tend to have more weigh on them or are generally "stronger" does not mean they are more talented. Dunking does not equal talent. Choose your words more carefully.

Posted by: sHecAnPlay | March 25, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

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