MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO)– They’ve been called arguably the best women’s college hockey team ever. This past weekend, the undefeated Gopher women’s hockey team won their 49 consecutive game as well the national championship – but it wasn’t shown on television.
The NCAA says Turner Sports and the Big Ten Network could not reach an agreement to televise the Frozen Four. Turner Sports holds the rights to televise the women’s championship game.
So, that had viewers like Marlys Thomas from Greenfield wondering: “What gives?”
Why do women’s sports get less attention?
Dr. Nicole Lavoi is the associate director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sports at the University of Minnesota.
“It’s not surprising,” Lavoi said. “I think we can speculate it might be money, it might be interest.”
Lavoi describes the lack of women’s sports on television as a classic “chicken and egg” argument.
“If you don’t broadcast it, it doesn’t generate interest, so people don’t show up,” she said.
This season, the average attendance to a women’s Gopher hockey game was 1,878. For the men’s team, it was 9,950. Some students say they simply prefer watching men’s sports.
But Lavoi cites a University of Southern California study that reports 98 percent of network sports coverage is about men.
“When you constantly see or read about men’s sport, that’s what people will think is interesting and valuable and exciting,” she said.
Lavoi points to women’s college basketball, whose attendance has increased with more television visibility. She also says USA Hockey saw an increase in the popularity of girl’s hockey after the Winter Olympics.
Eighty-one percent of NCAA revenue – roughly $800 million – comes from television and marketing rights, and much of it with Turner Sports. WCCO tried to contact Turner Sports by phone, but they did not respond.