Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

GameDay a hit

I wasn't quite sure what to expect as I walked into Gampel Pavilion shortly after 9 this morning. I had a sense that there was going to be a pretty decent crowd for the first ESPN GameDay broadcast to promote a women's basketball game.

UConn officials estimated that about 3,000 people were inside Gampel for the morning broadcast. But it was more about the quality than quantity of fans. UConn is still officially on the break between semesters with classes not starting until Tuesday but a large, raucous crowd of UConn students were in the house.

"Before I came out, I had a chance to stand in one of the tunnels and see the reaction to what was up on the screen, the whole event," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Twenty five years ago when I took the job at Connecticut, there are more people working for ESPN today than were at our games. Just to see this happening, you can't fathom it, you can't imagine it that is has come to that. It is kind of mind-boggling, it really is."

Auriemma not only allowed his players to sit in the stands - actually stand in the stands would be more appropriate - with their fellow students to take in the event but he actually encouraged them to do so. They didn't exactly need too much help in the encouragement department.

"I had no idea how many people were going to show up but I was walking through the hallway, looking through the window and I was shocked to see how many people there were, the band's here, it's been crazy."

Predictably, the biggest positive response came whenever Auriemma or one of his players were showed on the big screen televisions and the largest chorus of boos were delivered when Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt was shown to the two screens.

It was a day that left many of have fought the fight to make women's sports more appealing to mainstream viewers bursting with pride.

When you walk in here, you want to say we arrived but you don't want to let that turn into entitlement," said Beth Bass, the chief executive officer of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association. "Just because UConn can have this kind of atmosphere doesn't mean that we have made it in the sport but it is certainly a tribute to where we are going and what Geno, UConn and all those guys have done here. It is phenomenal. The other thing that really touched me is that he allowed his athletes to be here. They are student-athletes and they got this whole experience here and I thought they should enjoy it. I thought that was special."

There will be another hour-long show before tonight's UConn/Notre Dame women's basketball game. The GameDay show will begin at 8 with the showdown between No. 1 UConn and No. 3 Notre Dame tipping a few minutes after 9.

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