Sports

South Carolina’s Dawn Staley theorizes women’s basketball was ‘being held back intentionally’

South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley reacted Monday night to her team’s national championship win over Iowa being the most-watched women’s basketball game ever.

Staley floated a theory about coverage of the women’s game ahead of the men’s basketball national championship.

Dawn Staley cut the nets

University of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley celebrates winning the Albany Regional and advancing to the Final Four after cutting a piece of the net at the MVP Arena in Albany, New York, on Sunday, March 31, 2024. (Tracy Glantz/The State/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

“I think women’s basketball was being held back intentionally,” she said, via On3.com. “For one reason or the other. We are bursting at the seams with talent. Young talent, great coaching, great players. People want access to our game.”

Staley added she has had more access than ever to watching women’s basketball.

“I’ve watched more women’s basketball games this year than any other year,” she said. “This is my 24th year coaching, I had access. I picked and chose what network, what streaming device. And sometimes, I had two and three devices in front of me because I wanted to tune into a lot of games.

Dawn Staley on the sidelines

Dawn Staley of the South Carolina Gamecocks reacts against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament National Championship at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on April 7, 2024 in Cleveland. (Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

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“Now, we’re in full demand and everybody else around the country wants to see women’s basketball. The decision-makers are making the right decision. I don’t think we’re going anywhere.”

The Gamecocks’ win over the Hawkeyes drew 18.7 million viewers to ABC’s coverage, with a peak of 24 million viewers during the game, according to ESPN. The number is up 89% from last year and 285% from the 2022 national championship.

Dawn Staley points to the ring

Head coach Dawn Staley of the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrates after defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes during the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament National Championship at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on April 7, 2024 in Cleveland. (Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

ESPN said the game was the most-watched sporting event outside of American football and the Olympics since 2019.

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