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UConn-Notre Dame national championship game drew 4.27 million viewers

Despite a (painfully) lopsided outcome, Tuesday night's NCAA women's basketball championship game between UConn and Notre Dame drew the largest viewership in a decade.

Andy Lyons

UConn did what many people probably feared would happen heading into Tuesday night's national championship game: their season-long dominance of the women's college basketball landscape manifested itself in a rout over the one team that seemed to be capable of offering a challenge.

After a tournament with a few too many lopsided outcomes involving teams that had earned the right to be considered among the nation's elite, Notre Dame's loss was not only a blowout but also a terribly disappointing effort from the nation's "other" undefeated team (and like it or not, they did little to challenge the notion that they were indeed "that other team" this season). It wasn't hard to find people either on Twitter or here at Swish Appeal saying they were considering turning the game off well before the final buzzer sounded.

Nevertheless, Amanda Kondolojy of TV By the Numbers reports that the game was the most-watched game in over a decade.

The highly anticipated matchup averaged 3.21 million households and 4.27 viewers (P2+) - fourth and sixth best, respectively, since ESPN began televising the women's championship in 1996. In addition, the 2.8 rating represents an increase of 40 percent over a 2.0 a year ago for UConn over Louisville.

In addition, nearly 100,000 fans turned to WatchESPN for the traditional telecast and the special ESPN3 Surround production of the matchup. Those 100,000 thousand fans generated 3,800,000 minutes on the game, both all-time highs for a women's college basketball game.

Interpreting the greater significance of every single game or marketing effort comes with the territory of being part of the women's basketball community and this outcome helps to debunk a myth that has long-haunted the game: that dynasties are somehow bad for the game.

The game had plenty of compelling storylines to beat into the ground latch on to:

  • Undefeated UConn winning a ninth title,
  • Undefeated Notre Dame challenging the empire that has otherwise shown few signs of ceding power,
  • Watching the latest chapter in the Geno Auriemma and Muffet McGraw "feud" evolve in real-time, and
  • One outstanding basketball team with a dominant star taking on another outstanding basketball team.

And somehow, the fact that UConn won back-to-back championships almost becomes a footnote given everything else that was accomplished last night.

Regardless of what people were interested in, people tuned into this game in spite of the lopsided display on the court.

Rather than adding ammunition to those who say UConn's dominance is bad for the game, it adds weight to the SHOCKING notion that actually promoting women's basketball as one would do any other sport will in fact help build its profile in the crowded U.S. sports landscape.

It's an excellent retort to the bros of the world who tell jokes at the expense of women's basketball saying "nobody watches it"; as with any sport, there are plenty of reasons why one might not prefer it, but the claims of nobody being interested are being rendered increasingly ignorant.

For more on UConn's win, check out our Final Four storystream.