Don’t tell this to Geno Auriemma, but the decision by A’ja Wilson to play for her home state university in South Carolina instead of UConn should be good news for UConn fans.
Sure, the imperial UConn women’s basketball dynasty would have grown if the 6-foot-4 guard-forward, ranked highest in the nation among high school seniors, had brought her talent to Storrs.
But let’s be honest here. The product — big-time women’s college basketball — stinks. We’ve got one dominant program, maybe a half-dozen Baylors, Notre Dames and Stamfords below that and then the bottom caves in.
That’s not good business and it’s not a formula for true success. Kudos to A’ja Wilson for showing hometown loyalty.
Competition makes sports. Red Sox-Yankees. Federer-Nadal. Celtics-Lakers. Deeper down, it’s about parity. The American Way. Everybody has a chance.
The NFL is the most successful league in the country, not least because football is a national sport with huge shared revenues. We’ve had seven different Super Bowl winners in the last eight years and ten different teams competing in the last five Super Bowls.
Think it’s all about winning? From 1996 to 2000, the five years when the Yankees won four World Series, they averaged 34,949 fans per home game. From 2004 to 2008, with zero World Series appearances: 51,190.
My colleague, the great sports writer Dom Amore, who covered the Yankees in the 2000′s, says that was due to a delayed effect, not parity. The Yankees made the playoffs in all of those years. Still, multiple rivalries helped the team’s gate.
And let’s look inside each game. How much actual UConn women’s basketball game action did you watch this year, from the tip-off Nov. 9 against UHartford to the last, victorious dribble in Nashville? Admit it — you switched to ESPN2 in the dull middle of the second half against Notre Dame to watch highlights of the amazing 2011 Masters tournament.
A breakdown of the historic 40-0 season, not including two silly exhibition games that the Huskies won by 65 points, tells the one-sided story:
- Wins by 50-plus: 8
- Wins by 40-49: 7
- Wins by 30-39: 9
- Wins by 20-29: 8
- Wins by 10-19: 8
- Wins by less than 10: 0
So as a UConn fan, say it loud: Thank you, A’ja.