Pittsburgh Isn’t Doing Women’s Basketball Any Favors

by Categorized: 2013 Big East Tournament, Agnus Berenato, Big East women's basketball, Geno Auriemma, Pittsburgh women's basketball, UConn women's basketball Date:

One of the truly annoying aspects of working in the world of women’s college basketball is understanding how little regard and respect most mainstream sports fans have for it, as if the athletes are somehow substandard and therefore not worthy of praise and/or attention.

This disregard is unmerited, the product of generational bias and misconceived notions about the intent and aspirations of most of the women who play basketball in college.

But there is one notion that I totally agree with. And it’s not something based solely on public opinion, but the fault of institutions that sponsor women’s basketball programs.

Let’s be honest about this: If Pittsburgh men’s coach Jamie Dixon ran a program that was on the verge of going two entire Big East seasons without a conference win, how long would the university stand for it?

There is no nicer coach in women’s basketball than Pitt’s Agnus Berenato. She truly appreciates every word and comment made about women’s basketball and has gone to great lengths to help the sport grow in Pittsburgh since she arrived in 2003.

Pitt was a Sweet 16 team in 2008-09 behind WNBA star Shavonte Zellous, who helped Indiana win the championship last season. It won more than 20 games in four straight seasons. The confidence in the program was so high Pitt extended Agnus’ deal through 2015-16.

But Tuesday’s loss was the 32nd straight in Big East play since March 4, 2011 when the Panthers beat South Florida in the conference tournament. The Panthers haven’t won a regular season game in the Big East since Feb. 15, 2011. That was 34 games ago.

We all know that this would never be tolerated in men’s college basketball – at any level. Look how long Seton Hall waited before they replaced Phyllis Mangina with Anne Donovan.

Until administrators hold their women’s programs to higher standards, they will run the risk of exposing them to ridicule.

And it will be utterly deserved.

On Monday, I asked Geno Auriemma what he thought about this apparent double-standard in how coaches are evaluated by Division I athletic directors and presidents.

“It’s hard for me to say,” Auriemma said. “The fact that there is so much revenue at stake on the men’s side, especially at a BCS school with football, men’s basketball, ice hockey, etc., it makes winning and losing just like life.

“And If you are coaching basketball at a mid-major, there is a lot of pressure to win because that’s all the school basically has [in terms of marketable athletics].

“I just think that in many places, with women’s basketball, it’s not the case yet. Will it be? I think it’s the next progression, but every school is different, every school has its own agenda and way of handling it.

“Look, it’s just hard to win in our league and if you get into a bad cycle it is hard to snap out of it. Look at the men’s side, if you get into the bottom three it’s just hard to climb out.

“But they [administrators] are less patient [with men’s sports] less because it’s too important.”

Only when that day comes to more college campuses will the efforts of their female athletes come into a more positive light.



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13 thoughts on “Pittsburgh Isn’t Doing Women’s Basketball Any Favors

  1. Winning is the Standard

    Agnus is a wonderfully nice woman. Recruiting is the life’s blood of any team, any sport. Unless your University cares enough to provide the funding and support you will lose. If the University tolerates losing 32 games in a row it means they don’t care about that program. Uconn fans would be attacking Geno in every media if he loses 5 games in a season–forget if he loses 10. He has a fan base because the Universty of Conn. Backs his program–and of course he’s a fair to mediocre coach too,ok maybe good, alright H.O.F coach.

  2. HarryH

    I’d like to add that even in CT it is sometimes frustrating to get news or updates about WBB from your local media. Many times on the mobile Courant there is nothing about a upcoming or already played game. When the men play there are score updates during the game. When the women play there maybe an article in the line up with all the other articles soon after a game.
    If you can’t get the kind of attention a sport deserves in CT how are you going to get it in a city with plenty of other sports.
    In many places women’s sports exist to meet title IV requirements and not to be a great sport. Boy are they missing all the fun!

    1. Tom Tom

      Oklahoma when they hired Sherri Coale promised to give her funding and facilities and access to those facilities. She took a less than below average to an annual top 4,10,20 program. She has won more than she’s lost and fans come, much like Uconn, to the games.
      Sherri is accessable, answer letters with “get you season tickets” and gives you a response that makes you feel great and want to go to those games. And she’s not bad to look at either.
      All colleges could do the same if they really believed in title 9

  3. NewHavenJude

    Thanks for this article, John. I agree with the other comments. Some schools just don’t care about women’s sports & are only following the letter of the law contained in Title 9. I wish the commentators during women’s games would address this issue . . . maybe even show a bit of outrage about it (heaven forbid!). I’m surprised Geno didn’t make a stronger statement about this issue. Thankfully, some schools are improving but it must be very frustrating & demoralizing for coaches & athletes in programs such as Pitt who don’t seem willing to truly invest in women’s sports.

  4. FIRE geno

    UConn, Baylor, ND, and sometimes Stanford can help. Just press the entire game and win by 100. Keep doing it as many games as possible, year in and year out.

  5. h2Pfan

    the post has a lot of truth to it, but one point is being missed – Agnus has a substantial budget so the University cares enough to give her the resources (to win and succeed). She also makes a good chunck of change (salary). It’s frustrating to know the contract is until 15-16 and that there are no recruits signed for next year and only 10 (think that’s right) scholarship players.

  6. hjoerring

    John, I’m not sure about the point(s) you are making- should she be fired? More resources? Lack of interests via all the other sports? Let us look at UT-Austin: they were once the cream of the cream, but have been at the bottom for so long as I can remember. This, even though they stole the big G from Duke.'(Lots of commit. there. I am in agreement with Coach A, once you slip to the bottom it is v.hard to get out of that hole. But Pitt is leaving (or has left) so who cares- they will be playing with the high and mighty, and perhaps that is enough. What about all the in-coming schools? Are they simply replacing the Pitts of the former BE? Are we going to refashioned them into iron ladies? To get back to UT-Austin. While there I was never able to figure out why the team (in the midst of plentiful players- tall, strong and fast, could not put together winning seasons. Perhaps it was the heat, grades, coach (but she was good), changing of the guards- the rise of the North, Atlantic C over the So West. Look at Baylor, Tenn and now Kent. Why them and not UT or UT-San. Perhaps we should drill MOJ on why she really avoided UT in favor of UCONN or anywhere else’ Of course Conn recruits avoid UCONN. We could of use Heather Buck at UT-Austin, and we have a good Nursing School. I don’t think we can will these things. There are openings and if you are the right coach, at the right time and place- it simply runs. I have been a student also at Conn and who would have … that we would be a power house in W/MBB. How sweet it is. Let us bring once again bring the fight to ND- in their own backyard on monday. GO HUSKIES.

  7. hjoerring

    I should have added this comment, but there is much talk about players on the UCONN team and moist of it is very negative. It seems that the fans see players as machines that do not breakdown. Even th coaches seem to be extremely hard on players by not playing them and justifying it in terms of ‘work ethics’. Personally, I believe that a player with the stature of Stokes should be playing. Sitting a player until you get what you want is oldtime psych. It is punishment. Is Geno getting too big for his shoes? Is he slowly destroying the house that Geno build? I have said it before- if a player like Stokes jump ship Geno will have a very hard time recruiting the net one. My instincts say that A’ja wilson may decides to stay home or in the South. Brianna may head to Baylor, Stanford, etc., an we might as well say goodby to those in Calif. The Pac 10 is on the rise, finally. So Geno. listen to your own words- you need to rethink the way you are approaching these young women. For every HS player of the year that sign one, we miss out on 2-3 v.good ones. It’s not FUN any longer to play at UCONN (the coach, the fans …..).

  8. Denise in AZ

    The problem for women’s basketball seems to be at the high school level where players are not being developed. I enjoy womwn’s college bball, but I am dismayed to see the gap in talent between the top four college teams and the rest of the pack. I love UCONN but I am sick and tired of seeing our girls beat teams by 30 and 40 points.

    In the men’s game blowouts seem rare as there are so many talented players. This is not the case for the women’s game. More needs to be done to get more high school girls into the game and developing more skilled players.

  9. Damon J Walker

    As it turns out, it WASN’T really all that hard for Geno to come up with something to say. Surprise!

    I think he is right, of course.

    I think it is pretty sad that that so much of the public is missing out on the great basketball being played by the women. And I hate that the small audience costs us the opportunity to have more games broadcast nationwide.

  10. Christopher C Noble

    The issue is one of marketing. Marketing has two main parts. One is the Product. In Women’s college basketball the training and effort demanded from the athletes can be upgraded with adequate support from the institutions.
    The second part is promotion of the product. The target market is a set that overlaps men’s basketball to an extent. The balance of the target set consists of people who are not fans of college sports (or maybe any sports). However, there is a solid interest in girls in soccer and other sports at the middle and high school level. This interest can be cultivated to support the women’s college level. It takes a plan and the execution of the plan over a number of seasons.

  11. coach777b

    Women’s basketball has maybe ten top teams and the rest are pretenders. The blame is at the HS level, especially here in Connecticut. If Geno depended on HS seniors coming out of Connecticut school, he’d be just another middling coach with another run of the mill team.
    In most women’s sports, how many college coaches are flying to Connecticut to sign a player? The best HS player in Connecticut last year, signed with West Virginia. Odd? Was she heavily recruited by UCONN? I don’t think so! I watch athletes, male and female all along the East coast and the programs in other states are much stronger and they develop better athletes in most sports.
    As for Coach Beranato(sp), she is a good coach, with a good program and deep pockets. But either she or her assistants can’t seem to recruit worth a damn. There’s no excuse to run a top program and have only ten on scholarship. Her program needs to get serious about going after great players wherever they are. When Shay Ralph was an assistant there, the cupboard was never bare. They need to regroup. Pittsburgh is a great town, they should be able to attract some winners.

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