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Lackluster Attendance at the Women's Tournament

RALEIGH, N.C.—As Mike Wise pointed out in his column today, only 2,915 people were at RBC Center on Saturday afternoon to watch as Marissa Coleman put up 42 points and 15 rebounds, and essentially willed her team to a 78-74 victory over Vanderbilt in the round of 16.

That was the ninth-smallest crowd to watch the Terrapins play this season (excluding their Thanksgiving weekend games in Cancun, Mexico). RBC Center also had the smallest attendance of any of the region sites: 10,343 watched Oklahoma play Pittsburgh in nearby Oklahoma City (Ford Center), 6,461 watched Connecticut play California in Trenton, N.J. (Sovereign Bank Arena) and 6,178 saw Stanford top Ohio State in nearby Berkeley, Calif. (Haas Pavilion).

What should the NCAA do to ensure that there are better crowds at these important games?

Raleigh, in theory, should be an area that's receptive to women's basketball: North Carolina State, Duke and North Carolina are nearby, and all have rich traditions. But it seemed as if most of the people at RBC Center on Saturday were fans of a specific team.

Greensboro, N.C., draws enthusiastic crowds for the ACC women's tournament (Maryland played in front of crowds that averaged 9,294 for its three games), but it should be noted that organizers give away hundreds of tickets to local schoolchildren. The ACC tournament is also a destination weekend for fans; I know some Maryland fans who make the trip to Greensboro every year, but were unable to make it back to Raleigh.

I was in this same city and the same arena for the first weekend of the men's tournament last year, following Georgetown, and the two experiences couldn't be more different. RBC Center was filled with raucous crowds for both days of the men's tournament, which featured the Hoyas, North Carolina, Davidson, Indiana, Arkansas, Gonzaga, Mount St. Mary's and UMBC. I had barely any space to work in the media room. Dozens of reporters, photographers and television cameras were there to capture Stephen Curry's magical performance; he scored 40 points in the first round against Gonzaga, and dropped 30 on Georgetown in the second.

The only Washington area television stations that sent crews to Raleigh this year are Comcast SportsNet and WUSA (Channel 9). When the Maryland starters were in the "breakout room" for small group interviews on Sunday, Coleman drew a crowd of...four reporters. Kristi Toliver talked to three or four, while Dee Liles sat by herself and flipped through a media guide.

By Camille Powell  |  March 30, 2009; 11:18 AM ET
Categories:  Women's basketball  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Maryland Women Loosen Up
Next: Coleman-McCoughtry Matchup Could Be a Good One


The NCAA does a horrible job promoting women's sports. I don't think you can merely attribute this to gender bias. This lack of promotion affects many other sports, including men's soccer.

The Maryland men played in the College Cup in Dallas last December. The crowds were very sparse.

You were hard pressed to find any advertising in Dallas. I think I saw one banner in the entire city promoting the College Cup.

I think it does a huge disservice to the student athletes, coaches, and fans.

Some have advocated moving the women's basketball season back one month so that it's postseason tournaments won't conflict with the men. Having the women's tournament concurrently with the men is just plain terrible marketing.

Gender bias also plays a seminal role in this as well. While we've come a long way in the past 50 years, the media still diminishes the accomplishments of women in athletics compared to men - unless it's a sport like figure skating, tennis, or gymnastics that fit more of a feminine role.

Posted by: imterpsfan2 | March 30, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Gender bias also plays a seminal role in this as well. While we've come a long way in the past 50 years, the media still diminishes the accomplishments of women in athletics compared to men - unless it's a sport like figure skating, tennis, or gymnastics that fit more of a feminine role.

Posted by: imterpsfan2 | March 30, 2009 11:39 AM

Don't forget about Foxy Boxing.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | March 30, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I was shocked to see the arena to empty on Saturday. On the drive down that morning, it seemed like every fourth car on I-95 had Terps stickers or license plate frames on it. We got to the arena with time to spare before the first game, and in a chat with one of the stadium workers, he said they were only expecting three thousand or so... I couldn't believe it.

Sure enough, just about nobody turned up. Except sections 116, 117, and 118, which were jam-packed with Terps fans.

Posted by: random-adam | March 30, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

I am a man and I have to admit that were it not for Terps being a #1 seed and having the potential to go all the way, I might not have watched. But once I started watching I was enthralled with MD's senior's and their inspired play.

Yes, I definitely think that tournament timing and game site location need to be tweaked.

But, that being said I think the article overlooks a trend that I believe will affect even major sports franchises in the coming months and years and that is decreased attendance for all as competition for entertainment dollars in a depressed economy becomes even more frantic.

Posted by: jrealty | March 30, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

I am not really a fan of Maryland or any ACC school, but I quite enjoyed the games the Maryland women team played. I probably watched more of the women team play than the men. The point guard for the women is outstanding and they have a coach who is second to none when it comes to coaching. I would put her in the same category as John Thompson, Dean Smith and John Wooden. Smart, intense and competitive.

To get more people to the games, I would recommend having double headers with the men so that more people will be able to see them play. I know everyone thinks it is a stupid idea, but it works for Frederick Community College.

Posted by: dustycowboy2004 | March 30, 2009 10:41 PM | Report abuse

I attended the game tonight in Raleigh. I happen to live in Chapel Hill. There was little publicity of the women' Sweet Sixteen at the RBC Center. Raleigh's channel 5 did not even cover the game on its 11 o'clock news but devoted minutes to Roy Williams' radio show. At the game it was announced that AT&T was sponsor. I happen to have AT&T service and never got a text message or anything from them even promoting their sponsorship. The NCAA eve asked me to fill out a survey before the game and it was one of the weakest surveys I have seen (I've been in marketing for years).

Great games. Lousy marketing. The NCAA should be ashamed.

Posted by: pdeblin | March 31, 2009 1:06 AM | Report abuse

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