Final Four crowds show women still catching up

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Tuesday night’s NCAA women’s basketball championship game at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis would seem destined to pack the house.

After its upset of the heavily favored University of Connecticut, the University of Notre Dame is looking to claim the title against fellow underdog Texas A&M, which beat Stanford on Sunday. The matchup features a home-state hero in Notre Dame, which should help put more fans in the seats.

Those familiar with women’s basketball, however, say the game isn’t likely to be a sellout. As of Tuesday morning, tickets priced at $87.50 each were still available at the Conseco Fieldhouse box office for the 8:43 p.m. contest.

Despite having an in-state team in the Final Four and only 18,500 seats to fill, attendance at Conseco Fieldhouse was sparse Sunday for the semifinal round, with a total of 16,421 attending the two-game session.

Christine Brennan, a sports columnist for USA Today and president of the Association for Women in Sports Media, said Tuesday night’s matchup could look even more barren because the favorites have been eliminated. Most of the fans and officials from UConn and Stanford as well as the media personnel covering those teams have likely headed for home.

“There will be spots all along press row where newspaper reporters have gone home,” she predicted at a panel discussion about women’s basketball at IUPUI on Monday.

The game will need to be a sellout to avoid being one of the least-attended title games since the turn of the century. Every championship game since 2000 has drawn at least 18,211 fans. Last year’s title tilt in San Antonio drew 22,936, the biggest crowd in five years. The semifinals drew 25,817.

Indianapolis has seen big crowds for women's basketball in the past. More than 28,000 fans saw the title game at the RCA Dome in 2005.

The NCAA said attendance of regional rounds for this year’s women’s tournament was up 65 percent from last year, but the crowd at Conseco on Sunday shows there is still a big gap between the popularity of women’s and men’s basketball.

The men’s Final Four, which concluded in Houston Monday night, drew a record 145,797 to three games, with 75,412 on hand for Monday’s final game.  

Basketball remains the NCAA’s most popular women’s sport, but fans have been more selective in shelling out money for tickets in the wake of the recession.

Experts say the economy also took a toll on media coverage. As newspapers downsized, so did coverage for many teams. For newspaper sports desks, less-popular women’s sports beats are often the first to go. Last year’s women’s Final Four drew 100 fewer credentialed media members than it did in 2008.

Universities remain committed to keeping the sport a high-profile part of their athletic programs even though it’s a money-losing proposition. Bloomberg News noted that 53 public institutions across the six largest NCAA conferences reported big losses on women’s basketball in the past fiscal year.

College athletic directors often operate in the red with most sports, relying on revenue from football and men’s basketball to fund their operations. Women’s basketball is no exception, but its costs are significantly higher because of the nature of the sport, said Fred Glass, director of athletics for Indiana University.

“By and large, while there’s some exceptions at different places, women’s basketball is widely seen as one of the most prominent women’s sports,” Glass said. “It’s certainly treated that way by the NCAA. It sometimes carries the flag for women’s sports more broadly. That makes it significant.”

Glass, who runs a department of 24 varsity sports, said he does not sacrifice competitiveness in one sport for competitiveness in another. This makes some financial costs unavoidable. While women’s volleyball is comparable in revenue to the Hoosier women’s basketball program, the costs are very different.

“Coaches in women’s basketball tend to be more expensive than coaches in other women’s sports and coaches in other men’s sports as well, but we want to be competitive there,” he said. “Basketball is clearly more expensive and probably costs us more than any other women’s sport.”



  • NCAA Marketing
    The NCAA could use a little help in marketing its product, whether its the men's or women's tourney, and frankly, being a little more customer friendly.

    Example A: I have been going to NCAA Men's Tournament for the Sweet 16 Regional for 15 consecutive years, and I order tickets about 11-12 months before the games are played. However, since Ticketmaster has taken over the seating, the seats I receive I receive are consistently very poor, regardless of the arena. This year's tickets (8) in New Orleans were in the upper deck, in the corner; despite the fact that only 12,000 seats of the 19,000 were sold out in New Orleans, I received no consideration for better seating. So, not sure we are going for a 16th year. Ticketmaster runs the men's show more like a clerical function, and obviously, their priority is more clerical than customer oriented. But TV is the big driver, so not sure if the NCAA has any concerns about the fan draw.
  • There Could Be Free Tickets
    They still wouldn't sell out the place. I can see that level of competition at a boys JV high school game.
  • Clearly you haven't played a girl
    While the previous commenter is clearly ignorant I'll try to just ignore it. As for the ticket sales why don't they lower the price. It is a recession and more people are willing or would want to go if the price is more affordable!
  • Not there yet
    Until the ladies game catches up to the men's in skill and speed, there won't be the crowds generated by the men's game. It is good, but reflective of the men's game in the '30's. Sorry, but there is still a ways to go ladies. Keep it up, you are getting there.

    Post a comment to this story

    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
    Subscribe to IBJ
    1. I am a Lyft driver who is a licensed CDL professional driver. ALL Lyft drivers take pride in providing quality service to the Indianapolis and surrounding areas, and we take the safety of our passengers and the public seriously.(passengers are required to put seat belts on when they get in our cars) We do go through background checks, driving records are checked as are the personal cars we drive, (these are OUR private cars we use) Unlike taxi cabs and their drivers Lyft (and yes Uber) provide passengers with a clean car inside and out, a friendly and courteous driver, and who is dressed appropriately and is groomed appropriately. I go so far as to offer mints, candy and/or small bottle of water to the my customers. It's a mutual respect between driver and passenger. With Best Regards

    2. to be the big fish in the little pond of IRL midwest racin' when yer up against Racin' Gardner

    3. In the first sentance "As a resident of one of these new Carmel Apartments the issue the local governments need to discuss are build quality & price." need a way to edit

    4. As a resident of one of these new Carmel Apartments the issue the local governments need to discuss is build quality & price. First none of these places is worth $1100 for a one bedroom. Downtown Carmel or Keystone at the Crossing in Indy. It doesn't matter. All require you to get in your car to get just about anywhere you need to go. I'm in one of the Carmel apartments now where after just 2.5 short years one of the kitchen cabinet doors is crooked and lawn and property maintenance seems to be lacking my old Indianapolis apartment which cost $300 less. This is one of the new star apartments. As they keep building throughout the area "deals" will start popping up creating shoppers. If your property is falling apart after year 3 what will it look like after year 5 or 10??? Why would one stay here if they could move to a new Broad Ripple in 2 to 3 years or another part of the Far Northside?? The complexes aren't going to let the "poor" move in without local permission so that's not that problem, but it the occupancy rate drops suddenly because the "Young" people moved back to Indy then look out.

    5. Why are you so concerned about Ace hardware? I don't understand why anyone goes there! Every time ive gone in the past, they don't have what I need and I end up going to the big box stores. I understand the service aspect and that they try to be helpful but if they are going to survive I think they might need to carry more specialty parts.