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It IS March Madness: Still a Shadow Championship

March 18, 2014 – 5:42 PM

By Laura Pappano

Get ready: For the next few weeks college basketball will be everywhere you turn. Unfortunately, few of the games that will be playing non-stop on screens will feature women’s teams.

Yes, women are playing — just not where you will notice them.

Every year, I get excited and whoop up the crowd like a women’s basketball mascot — Fill out your brackets!! Did you see that game last night on ESPN2??!! — but I am aware that as great as the women’s play is (and it’s fantastic), the klieg light of attention given the men’s game leaves this brilliant show of female ball talent in the shadows.

I worry that the NCAA is only making things worse.

It is one thing for media empires to vastly out cover the men’s tournament and another for the NCAA to do it. Go to the jazzed up NCAA website and you quickly notice that after years of looking like a dowdy, but institutionally-sober event, the men’s bracket now rivals the glitz of the ESPN bracket challenge. The new website makes abundantly clear that the men’s championship is the main event.

Yes, you can go to the NCAA site and land on the women’s bracket (notice the “print bracket” button). If you look at the bottom of the page you see a new feature — a “play now” icon. Click it and — even though you are on the women’s bracket — it delivers you to an edgy page and invites you ESPN-style to fill out and play and invite others to join — the men’s bracket.

As I said, you can still “print bracket” if you dare to be interested in the women’s bracket challenge.

In this era, the click rules. Whoever can deliver you quicker with better design wins the competition for attention. Why make it so difficult to hold an office bracket challenge for the women’s tourney?

On the NCAA site, the endless electronic loops that navigate you over and over again to all things Men’s March Madness (unless you specifically click “Women’s Tournament”)  reveals all we need to know about the NCAA’s view of gender equity.

Women’s basketball may be one of the most successful and compelling women’s sports in America. The timing and overlap of the men’s and women’s tournament has long been a subject for debate. But the lopsided web favoritism for the men’s championship is unnecessary, annoying, and demeaning.

And, as I said. It tells you all you need to know.

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