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Courtside Conversations ? Dec. 12, 2006
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 12/12/2006
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The Pacific-10 Conference needs to make changes.  It’s killing women’s basketball.  While the teams are getting better, attendance is falling.  The nation’s elite are finding out how good this conference is.  However, no one within a stone’s throw of each school seems to notice.

 

The Stanford Cardinal welcomed nationally known Texas Tech to Maples Pavilion on Dec. 3.  Only 2,956 die-hards showed up.  The best team in the Pac-10 has not drawn 3,000 for a home game this season.  Meanwhile, once the envy of the nation, the Washington Huskies have watched over a steady erosion of its fan base.  The Dawgs averaged only 2,857 fans last year and its largest turn out was 3,541 for a run in with Washington State.  And in Oregon, where the Wildcats once played before 9,000 nuts at Mac Court, average attendance for the 2005-06 season dipped well below 4,000 fans per game.  No conference team averaged above 3,700 onlookers last year.

 

A laid-back climate in the west is partly to blame for these declines, but so is the Pac-10 Conference.  To fix it, the women need to get rid of their “us against them” mentality.  By “them” I mean the men.  Somehow, media-days and conference tournaments need to become intertwined in order to bring the women more coverage.

 

A few years ago, the men and women combined their media-days in Los Angeles.  Yes, the women were overshadowed by the men but they still received far more coverage than they do in San Jose, Calif.  This year, only a handful of writers and one television station showed up at the “Shark Tank.”  In L.A., the local writers that were predominately present to cover men’s basketball covered the women as well.  Each team had at least one newspaper and numerous television outlets.  That can only be good for women’s basketball.

 

The conference also must find a way to combine the men’s and women’s post-season tournaments.  Because the women host their tournament one week earlier than the men, the conference season begins ridiculously early.  The Wildcats will have played an astonishing seven Pac-10 games before school is back in session after the holiday break.  That’s nearly half of the schedule.  No wonder nobody notices. 

 

But not only do separate conference tournaments cause women’s games to start too early in the season, but the tournament itself is not succeeding.  Last season, only 4,073 made the trek to watch UCLA and Stanford face each to decide the tournament championship. The conference should consider holding the women’s tournament at the same time as the men.  The guys could be at The Staples Center while the women would call USC’s new arena home.  Then, the two final games could be held at Staples.  This way, media members would simply drive 15 minutes to cover both of their home-team’s games.  Yes, the men would get more coverage.  So what?  Any coverage is better than no coverage. 

 

We probably can’t fix the Pac-10’s obsession with Fox Sports Net or the fact that men’s basketball will always be more popular than the brand played by women.  But if anyone cares, a few things can be done to help bring more fans to women’s games.  Otherwise, look forward to a future of trying to remember if the Wildcats are playing while you’re finishing up last-minute Christmas shopping.

 

See you on the radio!

Paul Johnson

 

All Arizona Women’s Basketball Games can be heard live on AM 1400 KTUC Radio.  To find out more about Paul visit: http://pauldanieljohnson.net.

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