New Deal Significant For Women's Sports
The Pac-12 and Big Ten Conferences made news yesterday when they announced an unprecedented collaboration in college athletics that immediately delivers a long-term scheduling commitment between the two iconic conferences across all sports.
Football and basketball have generated the most attention, but the impact the new partnership will have on Olympic and women's sports promises to be significant.
"Both of our conferences take a lot of pride in the commitment and the success of women's sports," Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said. "The fact that we both have television networks obviously is great for fans of football and basketball, but the big win is for Olympic sports and women's sports, in particular who are tremendously underserved by media coverage of college sports today."
That pride and commitment has certainly been on display in women's volleyball as the Pac-12 and Big Ten have combined to win the last 13 NCAA titles in the sport. The 2012 championship match between UCLA and Illinois pitted the two conferences against each other for the seventh time in the last eight seasons. UCLA won in four games to snap the Big Ten's five-year championship streak.
"As we were finalizing the details of this I was watching the NCAA women's volleyball championship between Illinois and UCLA and was saying how wonderful this will be when we can have teams of this caliber across all women's sports playing against each other more often," Scott said. "That's what's going to happen."
Both the Big Ten and Pac-12 have strong commitments to diversity, gender equity and the sponsorship of broad-based programs, with over 17,000 student-athletes competing on more than 550 teams between the two conferences.
While Pac-12 and Big Ten teams already play each other occasionally across a variety of sports, the new agreement cements a commitment to compete annually in every sport. Many sports could see an increased level of inter-conference competition in the near term, possibly as early as the 2012-13 academic year. Exact details will be worked out over the coming months.
The excellence displayed by both conferences in women's sports should be no secret. The Pac-12 alone has won more NCAA titles in women's sports than any conference in the country and has forged a path for some of the most remarkable athletes to flourish, including Evelyn Ashford, Natalie Coughlin, Lisa Fernandez, Jennie Finch, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Lisa Leslie, Ann Meyers-Drysdale, Cheryl Miller, Annika Sorenstam and Jenny Thompson to name a few.
Most of those athletes became household names after their collegiate careers. The new Pac-12/Big Ten collaboration hopes to change that through increased exposure.
"That was really a driving force for us in wanting to create our own television networks and using the leverage that football and basketball gave us to create a platform that will allow us to have over 600 Olympic sports events on our TV networks a year, many of which will be women's sports," Scott said. "That's something we're proud of, we're investing in and something we want to enhance. When we look across the country we see an incredibly strong commitment in the Big Ten to women's sports and an incredibly high level of excellence. We've now got the platform to expose it and it's going to create a lot more national exposure for women's sports for both of our conferences as a result."