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Obama Bracket Challenge: Not (it turns out) for men only

March 13, 2012 – 12:04 PM

By Laura Pappano

Sports are political. This year’s March Madness tournament has made that point even more clearly than usual as President Barack Obama’s campaign announced the “Obama Bracket Challenge:” Out pick the President and your name appears on the campaign website.

While initial reports suggested a catch — that the contest only applied to the men’s bracket — the campaign IS hosting a women’s contest as well.

The women’s NCAA playoff may not be as big as the men’s. We know that. We have known that for years and years. We are, frankly, tired of knowing that.

But even as news outlets continue to focus on the men’s DI tournament, many have discovered that – hey – it’s not so tough to also cover the women. (Ignoring them, after all, is getting awkward). And this year promises some compelling play.

Inside Higher Ed’s annual academic performance bracket – looking at the playoff teams through graduation rates – this year for the first time includes analysis of women’s teams. The TeamRankings blog has discovered that “all of the rankings and simulations can be applied to the women’s side of things as well” and includes a table of round-by-round survival odds. And the Bleacher Report provides analysis of all the first round match-ups, pointing out that the “element of the unknown” in the men’s tourney “is ratcheted up to another level in the women’s tournament” (and yes, because many teams are never seen on national TV).

These may be small steps. But they matter. More people are filling out the women’s brackets. More outlets are considering the composition of the teams and the match-ups.

Sports is political. Whether you join the Obama Bracket Challenge or not, if you are March Madness inclined, fill out a women’s bracket because the conversation about whether Baylor will run the tables or UConn will lean on its history is talk, not just about play, but about valuing the compelling game that is Women’s NCAA DI Basketball.

Note: This story reflects a correction and update from an earlier version.



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