This is the time when college basketball begins to reign supreme in the sports world. The NFL season is over, baseball is slowly creeping back into relevancy and the NBA +NHL have finally hit the mid-way point in their season(s). College basketball’s popularity is directly correlated to march madness which takes the nation by storm every year.
Every sports fan loves March Madness. Office pools along with ESPN & Yahoo bracket challenges give the fans what they want, an opportunity to feel like a part of it all.
Question. When you’re filling out your bracket, which league do you fill your bracket out for; men, women, or both? The majority of you who get involved with March Madness (and are being honest with themselves) will say men. To be honest, I’m willing to be most college basketball fans didn’t even realize that ESPN gives you the opportunity to fill out a women’s bracket (That was until President Obama started making it a yearly ritual).
Side note; although ESPN gives you the opportunity to fill out a women’s bracket, notice that if you win, the prize money doesn’t come anywhere close to the prize for winning the men’s tournament challenge.
For those who don’t fill out a women’s bracket, this isn’t a criticism. Rather, this is just one of many examples of the gender bias that is still rampant in the sports world. To prove my point further; if I mentioned that there was a coach who’s won 9 National Championships and has 14 Final Four appearances but isn’t recognized as one the greatest basketball coaches of all-time, as a sports fan you’d say I’m crazy; and your right, I would be. However, truth be told, the only reason he’s not, is because he coaches women’s basketball.
Geno Auriemma is not only the best coach in women’s college basketball, he’s the best coach in college basketball; period. His numerous accomplishments trump every college basketball coach in America; the only possible exception would be Coach Mike Krzyweski (Duke Men’s Basketball; 4 National Championships). Here’s a brief list of his accomplishments during his 29 years as UCONN Head Coach:
- 9 National Championships
- 14 Final Four Appearances
- 5 Undefeated Seasons
- 6-time Coach of the Year
- Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame
Auriemma and his teams are perennial favorites to win the national championship almost every year. He’s coached some of the best women’s basketball players in the world and his brand is synonymous with winning. However he doesn’t seem to get the recognition in the global sports lexicon that he deserves.
Outside of Connecticut and the occasional ESPN coverage (during the Women’s Final Four/National Championship), Auriemma and the UCONN women aren’t discussed nearly as much as they should be. If a men’s program was as prominent as UCONN, SportsCenter would be broadcasting live from their campus during every “big” game. Point being, there would be a hell of a lot more press and praise being sent in their direction then there is.
Just think about it for a moment. Sports talk radio would be buzzing about this team every college basketball season if it was a men’s team. The Duke men’s basketball team, who has had some great runs over the years but nothing close to the UCONN women, are talked about relentlessly during every basketball season. Other “powerhouses” like Kansas and Kentucky are always discussed and their coaches are considered the best in the game. Do you know how many championships those universities (Duke, Kentucky, Kansas) have over the past ten years; three. The UCONN women have four.
UCONN is a great example of the unfortunate gender bias that still runs rampant through our sports culture, especially college basketball. Given the success that a university like UCONN has had over the past three decades, you would think more would be said about their legacy among the elite in college basketball supremacy. Taking gender out of the equation, there isn’t a college basketball coach in the country that has the reputation or the championships that Auriemma has. The only coach in his “league” as far as accolades go, is (the previously mentioned) Coach Krzyweski.
Auriemma is one the greatest coaches of all-time. I will believe that until I see someone do it better than him. The winning culture that he has infused at Storrs is unlike anything we’ve seen since maybe the great Pat Summitt (another women’s coach who doesn’t get nearly enough credit). His accomplishments speak for themselves and it’s too bad that so many continue to overlook his coaching acumen. The argument for whether or not he should be considered one of the greatest coaches of all-time shouldn’t begin with, “Well he coached women basketball.” Rather, it should begin and end with, 9 time National Champion, 14 Final Four appearances, and Hall of Fame coach.