In the past week, Pitt knocked off No. 14 seed Utah and No. 3 Minnesota to advance to the Regional Final of the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship.
But unless you have ESPN 3 or some from of streaming service, it’s likely fans missed both matches, including Pitt’s win against Long Island University in the tournament opener.
In eight short seasons, head coach Dan Fisher has turned Pitt into a contender. But you wouldn’t know it unless you lived in Pittsburgh or were a true volleyball junkie. Fisher was the ACC Coach of the Year in 2017 and 2018. Pitt had won three consecutive ACC championships before this season.
The NCAA is not helping the cause either. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA scaled down the tournament from 64 teams to 48, with all matches being contested at the CHI Health Center Omaha convention center in Omaha, Nebraska. The Regional Final, National Semifinals and Championship will be played at the adjoining arena.
For the first time, all first- and second-round games were broadcasted with play-by-play announcers on ESPN outlets.
Why has it taken so long for ESPN to broadcast all rounds of the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship? People don’t really need all of that SportsCenter in their lives along with the other shows ESPN puts out on a daily basis.
For a couple of weeks, why not showcase the tournament to help grow the game?
The NCAA has to do more to promote the sport and women’s sports in general. Everyone saw what happened with the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championships and the lackluster weight room and training facilities that were provided until Sedona Prince, who plays at Oregon, had a tik tok video go viral.
There are so many skilled players who play high school volleyball and then move on to play collegiately, but only get noticed if they are on a powerhouse program that makes it deep into the tournament, because ESPN neglects to show volleyball throughout the year.
The Big Ten Network does it right, showing matches throughout the week and on the weekend. It’s no wonder why there are so many talented teams in the conference. Children have the opportunity to see what players in the conference do on a weekly basis and want to follow in their footsteps.
Penn State has one of the greatest volleyball coaches of all-time in Russ Rose. The Nittany Lions have seven National Championships, but could only manage to be shown on ESPNU in their National Semifinal against No. 4 seed Texas on Sunday.
With two superb Pennsylvania programs on the Division I level, it is a shame that the sport is not promoted more. There are not even game stories on the AP Wire for the tournament.
Some of these women go on to become Olympic athletes and dominate the sport.
The old adage that networks do not show women’s college sports because they do not make money is just that … old. If networks would take the bull by the horns so to speak and showcase women’s college sports the way they do men’s sports, more people would likely watch.
It is and will continue to be very difficult to grow women’s collegiate sports if the only places to find it are in local markets.