As I think about the Top 100 Programs in Women's College Basketball (yes, that's coming after the WNBA season but before the start of the NCAA season), there was always the argument to be made on behalf of a basketball program for being in a good media market. If you read recruiting brochures from the various major universities, much hay is made of the school being located in the "#x Media Market in America".
I never bought much into that argument for a couple of reasons. First, just because your team is in a good media market is no guarantee you'll get any press - most likely, you'll be behind six other sports that are ahead of you in coverage. It seems that one reason Big Twelve women's teams do well is that they're in a "right sized" media market - not so big as to be crowded out by other franchises, not so small as to be negligible in recognition, and with a decent history of support for women's basketball.
The second reason is that the only thing that really counts is television. In the 21st century, things that aren't on television don't exist. A player can go to Virginia Tech and be virtually ignored or go to Connecticut and get on national television several times a year. That's not just important for player bragging rights, but it's a pitch that can be made to family members - "come to Connecticut and your parents and family will see you on television".
I thought I would build television appearances into my method of evaluating women's teams, but the problem was that not every conference has released its team schedules. The ACC, the Big East and the Pac-12 have all made releases; the other three conferences have not. The smaller conferences are in no hurry to release their schedules; odds are none of their games will be televised anyway.
There is television, and then there is TELEVISION
Not all television broadcasts are equal. Connecticut games used to be broadcast for the most part on Connecticut Public Television. Now they have the Big East Network and SportNet New York, and CPTV has been thrown under the bus. Eyeballs mean dollars, and advertising means dollars.
So which games are the best? I looked at the 2012-13 schedules for the ACC, Big East, and Pac-12. Clearly, nationally televised games are the best. I counted a game as "nationally televised" if it appeared on one of the four major broadcast networks, on ESPN, or on ESPN2. Even basic cable these days will usually get you ESPN2.
The next best games are regional network games, and there is a baker's dozen of these. Some are local Fox Sports regional networks, there is the CBS Sports Network, and now we have conference-specific networks. I call these the "expanded cable" networks - you usually don't get them on basic cable and even if you have the cash there's no guarantee they'll be carried. However, there is still the chance that your family can watch your games; it just might be a bit more inconvenient.
There is, however, another form of broadcasting - internet broadcasting, which threatens to change everything it touches and women's basketball is no exceptions. There are a handful of major schools which have dedicated broadband networks that will broadcast games. Granted, your family huddled in front of a laptop is no replacement for glorious HDTV broadcast. Furthermore - as any WNBA fan can tell you - internet broadcasts can be glitchy. But with greater technical advances in this field, more and more schools in the future will have an opportunity to livecast all of their games over an internet feed.
With All That in Mind
...with all that in mind, I gave each school one point for each nationwide broadcast. I gave each school 1/3 of a point for each regional broadcast. (The Pac-10 network has "nationwide Pac-10" and "Regional Pac-10" and the Big East Network has a "Game of the Week" designation; I treated them all the same.) For schools that planned to broadcast a game on-line, I provide one-tenth of a point up to a maximum of ten tenths, or one full point.
The winners and losers follow:
An asterisk indicates that a team's non-conference schedule has not been fully released. The Livecast column indicates the broadband network for schools which seem to have their own networks.
The only surprises to me were Connecticut and Georgia Tech. Connecticut got beaten by Maryland, which has more regional broadcasts - a plus if a recruit's family is in the same area as the university. Georgia Tech has seven regional broadcasts for the 2012-13 season which should lift the boat.
Seen and not Seen
One of the big knocks about playing west of the Mississippi is that eastern coaches could tell an East Coast recruit - "if you go to Stanford/UCLA/Arizona your family will never see you play". If a game aired, it might air late and East Coast TV might pass it up.
However, the Pac-12 Network has now been formed, which will flood the west with all sorts of televised games. If a recruit wants to go play for Stanford, in a few years there will be no difference between east and west - it will all be on TV, and Mom and Dad will just stay up three hours later than usual to see the game. The Pacific-12 network is going to broadcast a lot of women's basketball in the 2012-13 season - hopefully, that will not change in the future. It's always a great idea to level the playing field.