A Viral Tweet Leads to the Most Successful Women’s March Madness Tournament in 20 Years


Paul Flicek, Staff Writer

March Madness, the end-of-year NCAA basketball tournament, is one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year. However, the men’s tournament has dominated the television ratings for so long average viewers may not have even known there was a women’s tournament taking place as well. College sports executives have long prioritized the men’s tournament over the women’s tournament, which didn’t even get the “March Madness” title until this year. The March Madness title is one of the few examples of how women’s sports are consistently overlooked on the executive level. 

At the beginning of the 2021 women’s tournament, Oregon Forward Sedona Prince, shared a video on TikTok and Twitter showing the disparities between the men’s and women’s amenities. The video highlighted the men’s weight room full of expensive machines, free weights and squat racks. The women’s weight room, however, received a measly set of 12 dumbbells. This sparked controversy throughout the sports world as NBA players, such as Stephen Curry, retweeted the video asking for change. Overnight, the women received a brand new weight room, similar to the one the men received. This video continued to gain traction across social media. Due to the viral nature of the video, Congress began an investigation into the disparity between the men’s and women’s tournaments. A year later, the NCAA has begun acknowledging women’s sports much more. 

The beginning of the 2022, March Madness tournament looked much different than in previous years. The women’s tournament expanded from 64 teams to 68 teams, which matched the amount in the men’s tournament. There was similar branding on the courts of both tournaments, and every player, regardless of gender, received welcoming gifts that featured shirts, towels and other branded merchandise. The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball staffs, which previously featured 11 members for men and seven members for women, now have 10 members each. The changes made by the NCAA have already made this year’s tournament one of the most successful we have ever seen in terms of equality and ratings. 

In an interview with The Washington Post, South Carolina Women’s Basketball Head Coach Dawn Staley said now is the time to invest in women’s sports. 

“The signage is nice. The branding is nice. The swag bags — all of that — that’s nice,” Staley said. “But let’s get down to the meat and potatoes of being treated like a sport. If we really want to invest in women and invest in our championship, now is the time. Now is the time for change, because we’re as hot as we have been in a long time.”

This was only the second year that the women’s tournament was broadcasted nationally for every game, including the opening round. According to “Frontofficesports.com,” the selection show saw a 160% growth over 2021, which indicated successful viewership numbers were on the way. The opening round action saw an increase of 15% compared to 2021. The Final Four semifinal games averaged 2.7 million viewers, an increase of 20% compared to 2021. The championship game between UConn and South Carolina shattered records and set a new standard for women’s basketball. 

The 2022 national championship was the most-watched NCAA women’s basketball championship game since 2004. The game pitted two of the biggest stars in all of college basketball– Paige Bueckers (UConn) and Aliyah Boston (South Carolina)– against one another, resulting in a championship game for the ages. It brought in 4.85 million viewers with a peak of 5.91 million viewers. According to “basketballnews.com,” this is up 18% from 2021 and up 30% from 2019. This game was also the most-watched college basketball game on ESPN, men’s or women’s, since 2008. South Carolina won the game, edging out UConn with a score of 64-49, resulting in their second title in six years. 

The NCAA has finally done its job in properly promoting the women’s collegiate basketball league. Hopefully the league can continue this same support in the future.