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The Spectator

The student news site of Lake Forest Academy

The Spectator

Beyond March Madness; The rise of Women’s Sports

Photo by @caitlinclark22 on Instagram
Catkin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes lift the regional trophy after winning the Elite Eight.

March Madness is a tournament which always draws in large numbers of viewers, and excitement. According to the NCAA, over 25 million people made brackets. In recent history, the women’s march madness has been largely overlooked with the men’s tournament having more support. However, that narrative has changed drastically this year as stars such as Catlin Clark and Paige Bueckers among many others have brought a lot more eyes to Women’s college basketball, and womens’ sports in general.

Before March Madness, Catlin Clark (who plays point guard for Iowa) established herself as one of the greatest college basketball players after recently winning the NCAA scoring record for both men and women beating Pete Maravich’s record set in 1970. This brought a lot of new viewers and interest to Women’s college basketball. However, she wasn’t the only woman bringing in views. Stars such as Angel Reese of LSU, Paige Buekers of UConn, and Cameron Brink of Stanford stood out for their outstanding talents and likable personalities. Many other teams and more female players also attracted more viewers.

The actual tournament itself broke many records. Catlin Clark’s Iowa and the Undefeated South Carolina team went to the finals where South Carolina won 87-75. This, however, was not the game that shattered records and expectations. The semi-final game between UConn and Iowa brought in 14.2 Million viewers and was the most watched college basketball game ever for both men and women. This count is higher than every World Series and NBA Finals game last year. This proves that women’s basketball and sports in general can be just as, or more popular than the men’s teams.

Dave Atas, one of the Girls Varsity Basketball coaches, responded to this skyrocketing coverage, stating, “I think it’s huge. Not just for basketball, but for women’s sports in general…” He continued, “I do think they haven’t gotten the attention they deserve.”

Reflecting on the changes in women’s athletics compared to his high school days, Coach Atas noted, “People are finally starting to see how athletic women can be, and how much work that they put into their sports… Society is finally just starting to get a glimpse of that.” He lamented the lack of exposure to women’s sports on big platforms and channels during his younger years, stating simply, “They just didn’t air it.”

Looking to how far we’ve come today, Coach Atas highlighted the upcoming platform ESPNW, which is set to be launched in the next couple of years and will be purely focused on women’s sports. “Those platforms didn’t exist back then, so it’s great that they are finally getting the exposure that they deserve,” he explained.

“Superstars like Caitlin Clark have inspired a whole younger generation want to be like that, wanting to have an athletic build, being more focused on performance rather than aesthetics. It’s awesome,” Atas reflected.

Before Caitlin Clark, the emergence of superstars like her has paved the way for a brighter future for women’s college basketball. Atas emphasized, “They brought a lot of exposure to women’s basketball. I think it’s huge. Not even just for basketball, but for women’s sports in general.”

The 2024 March Madness tournament has not only showcased the remarkable talent and athleticism of female basketball players but also underscored the growing prominence and potential of women’s sports on a global stage. As the momentum continues to build, one thing remains clear: the future of women’s college basketball is bright, and its impact will be felt far beyond the confines of the court.

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About the Contributors
Myles Haight, Managing Editor of Photography and Digital Content
Tanya Ganesh, Sports Director

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