What does Title IX look like? BIG EAST provides some answers — Scenes from BIG EAST Media Day — Must-click women’s basketball links
The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, Oct. 19, 2022
Happy Basketball Wednesday! When we think about Title IX at 50, we tend to frame it in this bifurcated way: much has been accomplished, there’s a long way to go. It’s not necessarily the case that we see examples of areas where true equality can be credibly cited. The BIG EAST, though? Particularly Media Day? It sure feels like we’re close, if not there.
The BIG EAST holds its Media Day on the same day, every year, in the same place: Madison Square Garden. The event itself is always extremely well-run, in recent years making use of the MSG court itself. There’s ample time to talk to multiple players from each team, along with every coach. The commissioner speaks, at length, with knowledge and passion, about the women’s game just as much as the men’s game. She speaks twice. She speaks for an equal amount of time.
And there are a huge number of reporters on hand — one SID told me the most registered since 2013 — who don’t scatter to the four winds once the men finish in the morning, either.
Connecticut has plenty to do with that, of course. But even in this case, we’re talking about what Geno Auriemma does for the game once again — too often, I’ll hear grumbling about how much Geno talks to the media, and I’ll truly never understand it. If you think women’s basketball should be in the conversation more, well, start and continue the conversation!
But it wasn’t like reporters stuck by Geno’s table alone. Nor should they.
For one thing, the preseason player of the year plays for Villanova. Maddy Siegrist is one of many must-watch players in this league, and Villanova got the lone non-UConn first-place vote (Geno couldn’t vote for his own team).
A reporter asked him if he’d voted for Villanova to give them more confidence.
“They don’t need confidence,” Auriemma replied. “Last year, they beat our asses.”
It was a weird question, and yes, there are some who still view the world of women’s basketball through Jonathan The Husky-shaped glasses. But Siegrist and her coach, the underrated Denise Dillon, had plenty of company, as did the always-entertaining Tony Bozzella of Seton Hall and Doug Bruno of DePaul.
I was also struck by the quiet around Megan Duffy and Marquette, though. A reporter just ahead of me asked about the disappointment of last season — one in which the Golden Eagles won 23 games and reached the NIT. If that doesn’t speak to the level of program Marquette is now, I don’t know what does.
“The standards are high at Marquette,” Duffy told me. “And you just hit it on the head, you win 23 games and it’s like what more can we do? We got to you know, fix little things like this, but I love that challenge.”
Meanwhile, Ackerman spent the afternoon time as active as she’d been during the morning for the men. Part of what makes the BIG EAST so capable of finding that equality is the unique structure of their setup — there’s no football, meaning there’s not two men’s sports that get fed alongside women’s basketball. But it’s also Ackerman herself — there’s just no way the first president of the WNBA is going to preside over a league that fails to take women’s basketball as seriously as men’s basketball. And the promotion of Pam Flenke, who has been critical to this effort, to assistant commissioner, women’s basketball, further guarantees buy-in.
Even the in-house media reflected this — it helps that the league is smart enough to employ superstar Kim Adams, who is so great on BIG EAST coverage, but they’ve continued expanding their own coverage, too, with Meghan Caffrey and Lisa Roman this year. No one’s going to take your league seriously if you don’t show this attention to detail yourself.
So yes, there are plenty of circumstances that have created this duopoly — the only real difference between the two conference tournaments is venue, with the men playing at The Garden, the women at Mohegan Sun, but even that is a logical outgrowth of the women’s basketball footprint itself.
So yes, I loved every minute of BIG EAST Media Day. It’s been a delight for years. But as I drove home from The Garden, I realized what had really buoyed me so much at the event.
This is what it looks like, right?
We saw a blueprint for what should be everywhere.
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