Archive for Monday, April 1, 2002

Does sex sell? Maybe, but fans stay for game

April 1, 2002


Sex may help sell women's sports, but the NCAA championship game wasn't in need of any extra help. The question was not an April Fool's joke.

It would have been a dandy.

"With you and (Connecticut coach) Geno (Auriemma) in there, people are talking about the attractiveness meter being very high, plus you have a couple of good-looking teams. Is sex appeal good for this sport?"

Oklahoma women's basketball coach Sherri Coale couldn't believe her ears, but thought it was pretty funny. Connecticut All-American Sue Bird was speechless at first.

The reporter, not surprisingly of the television medium, was completely serious. Apparently, she had taken it on herself to label Sunday night's NCAA championship matchup between UConn and Oklahoma "the glamour game."

Bird had an intelligent answer, once she recovered from the shock. She relayed that while some people may start watching women's basketball because it's "girls in tank tops," after awhile they'll stick around because they'll see that these women really have some game.

That's insightful, and shows how Bird can make the best of a somewhat dicey situation. It's clear that Coale doesn't care what people think about what she does or doesn't wear. She presents herself as she believes a woman should.

OK, so not many coaches  scratch that, hardly anyone  wear stiletto heels to work. Coale's wardrobe on the sidelines has drawn so much attention that it was featured in the fashion section of an Oklahoma newspaper.

She knows when to be practical. On nights when the Sooners had a net-cutting opportunity during the postseason, Coale wore pants.

The marketing folks of the women's sports world know when to exploit beauty and athletic talent. A certain tennis player who has never won a tournament is the poster child for that concept. But in this situation  the game is selling itself, believe it or not  the looks on the court are secondary to skills.

Sure, sex sells.

Will it cause a ratings spike? No one will ever know for sure. If Bird is right, maybe it will  and make things that much better for the true fans.

Interest in women's college basketball may be on the rise, but this year's tournament in San Antonio saw a drop in credentialed media. The NCAA issued 592 credentials for last year's Final Four in St. Louis. The San Antonio media contingent numbered 403.

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