The Charlotte Sports Foundation made calls shortly after the women’s NCAA Tournament, which set viewership and attendance records last year, to see about hosting a major women’s basketball game to kick off the 2023-24 season. They contacted Iowa and Virginia Tech to secure teams. In a surprising turn of events, the foundation was able to get sponsor Ally Financial to agree to fund the game just 24 hours after making the call. This was a quick and unprecedented process.
The women’s basketball season has garnered a significant amount of attention, with players like Iowa’s Caitlin Clark reaching new heights of popularity. The women’s national title game had a viewership peak of 13 million and the prominence of stars like Clark, Angel Reese, and Paige Bueckers has contributed to the heightened interest in the sport.
In order for the game to gain more visibility, opportunities for high-profile matchups and special events need to be seized, such as a game in Charlotte between Final Four teams and South Carolina and Notre Dame tipping off the season in Paris. These events require the support of various stakeholders, such as coaches, athletic departments, and television networks.
Currently, the NCAA and ESPN are vital to further growing women’s college basketball. There are opportunities for both entities to capitalize on the sport’s potential and elevate its prominence in the sports world. However, it is also necessary for individual conferences and teams to invest in promoting their own players and settings for games. The increased viewership and attendance for this season indicate that changes need to be made to elevate the women’s basketball experience even further.