Women’s Division I basketball in the Triangle is still fighting for respect and equality with the men.
That was the consensus among the area’s four Division I head coaches at the Nov. 1 Women’s Tip-off Luncheon hosted by the Cary Chamber of Commerce and Triangle Sports Commission.
North Carolina Central coach Vanessa Taylor, N.C. State’s Wes Moore, Duke’s Joanne McCallie and North Carolina’s Sylvia Hatchell joined mistress of ceremony and WRAL sports anchor Mandy Mitchell for a roundtable discussion on the upcoming season and the future of women’s basketball at the Umstead Hotel & Spa in Cary.
“The media doesn’t cover women’s games in the Triangle like other places,” McCallie said.
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“We go to Syracuse, Tennessee, and there are 19,000 to 20,000 fans. That’s because the media put as much emphasis on the women’s game as the men’s.”
“If we did get better coverage, it would help with attendance. I am disappointed that we don’t get the coverage we should (in local papers.)
Too often, McCallie continued, when the spotlight is shined on a program, it’s for all the wrong reasons. She noted the turmoil surrounding her program last season and the media scrutiny.
“Ethics in journalism is at its lowest. The media only want to cover the negative stuff, and women get the double negative,” she said. “We are not getting the coverage and when we do get it, it’s negative.
“I heard from people in the media that never cover our program, but they wanted to write a story on what was going on. It was very hurtful. In my 25 years, I had never experienced anything like that in my life. We’re much stronger for it.”
The coaches were asked about recruiting and what one thing would turn them way from a recruit.
“Social media,” Taylor responded. “We pay very close attention to what they’re doing online. On our home visits, we look at how they function within the home: jobs, chores, respectful to parents.
McCallie said she doesn’t look so much at the recruit as she does their upbringing.
“I look at the parents. If I have problems with the parents, chances are I’m going to have problems with that student-athlete,” she said to some grumblings from the audience. “The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
Hatchell said she follows the advice of late UNC men’s basketball coach Dean Smith.
“In our recruits, we look at academics, skill and character,” she said. “If there’s a red flag in one, we don’t take them off the list but put them on a B list. Two red flags, then they’re gone.”
The coaches said they were looking forward to the start of the season. For the first time since 1988, none of the Triangle ACC teams made the NCAA Tournament, even though the Wolfpack finished 20-11.
And since the league expanded with the additions of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse in 2013, the Fighting Irish has won the past three ACC Tournament championships.
“I asked (N.C. State athletics director) Debbie Yow, ‘How could you let Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse in?’ She said she was in the bathroom when the vote was taken,” Moore said to laughter.
Added McCallie: “They bring in more fans, and that affects recruiting. Growth and rising up, we’ve all got to do a better job. We’ve got to step up to the plate.
“People must come to see these women play; they are extraordinary.”