UConn Women's Winning Streak Gets Little Notice

The University of Connecticut's women's basketball team will try for its 88th consecutive win Sunday afternoon. A victory would tie the all-time college basketball win streak set by the UCLA men's team in the 1970s, but why isn't the media jumping on the story? Host Liane Hansen talks to sports columnist Christine Brennan of USA Today about UConn's chances in Sunday game against Ohio State and the relative dearth of media coverage about UConn's winning streak.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

The University of Connecticut women's basketball team is on the verge of sports history. If the team wins this afternoon against Ohio State, it will be its 88th consecutive victory. That would tie the UCLA men's team of 1971-74 for the longest winning streak in college basketball. The UConn Huskies would then have a chance to break the record on Tuesday against Florida State.

Christine Brennan is a sports columnist for USA Today, and a regular commentator on NPR's MORNING EDITION. And she's in the studio. Thanks for coming in. So nice to meet you.

Ms. CHRISTINE BRENNAN (Sports Columnist, USAToday): Oh, it's a pleasure being here. Thanks for having me.

HANSEN: Could the Huskies lose the game?

Ms. BRENNAN: Certainly they could. Ohio State had a surprising loss to unranked Syracuse a few days ago. Other than that, Ohio State was ranked sixth at the time. Now they're 11th. So UConn, Connecticut is number one, but they're facing a top 15 team and if they get off to a cold start, or if they overlook this, or if theyre all nervous about this record or anything. Ohio State also I think has a lot to prove who after that loss. So it should be fun to watch.

HANSEN: Why is UConn not only so good but so much better than the other women's teams?

Ms. BRENNAN: It's perplexing because here we are with Title IX almost 40 years old, signed by Richard Nixon in June of 1972, as you know. And so you would think there would be 20 basketball teams in women's basketball that would be equal in fighting it out. And instead there's this one at this time, so I am perplexed. I don't understand that.

I wish the other teams would rise up to the level of the Huskies. And Im not quite sure why they haven't except for the incredible aura of Geno Auriemma, and the recruiting and the great tradition at UConn, which is very similar, by the way, to the storylines of the UCLA men almost 40 years ago.

So I think we should celebrate the UConn women, as opposed to criticize them for being so darned good.

HANSEN: Right. I want to talk about the idea of measuring the UConn streak, women, to the UCLA men's streak. Isnt that apples and oranges, because doesnt that infer that even if they make it it's no big deal?

Ms. BRENNAN: Well, we're already the hearing that, Liane, as you know. There's apples and oranges like, well, the UCLA men we've had to put that at different category. Or, well, it's a women's game. Or they don't play the same game. Those kinds of things you're hearing them. You'll hear more of that, certainly today. And then if UConn wins then heading into Tuesday if they can break the record.

To me, we're talking basketball here. And whether its men's basketball or women's basketball, it's the same game in terms of the rules and the regulations, and it's the college game, of course. And back almost 40 years ago, a college team won 88 in a row. And if the Connecticut Huskies win today and then win Tuesday, they will have won 89 in a row. And isn't 89 better than 88?

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Mm-hmm. You know, part of the conversation about this streak is that there hasnt been much conversation about this streak. Why? I mean, is it a jinx or something?

Ms. BRENNAN: No, you know, I hate to say it because I do think their participation in women's sports is amazing. There are millions of women and girls playing sports in our country; pumping them out every year. It's wonderful so there's so much to celebrate and it's such a positive feeling about women's sports.

I think the mainstream sports media, which happens to be male-dominated, is still ignoring women's sports and doing a terrible job of covering women's sports. Richard Lapchick, the great cultural sports commentator, I quoted him the other day in a column and he said this. He said maybe this is really showing us how bad its still is for the coverage of women's sports.

Because if the UConn men's team was about to break this record, oh my goodness, it would be saturation coverage. Everyone would be talking about it. And it's not that we don't care, it's just that the media is not giving us a chance to care by talking about it and making it a big deal.

HANSEN: USA Today sports columnist and regular contributor to NPR's MORNING EDITION, Christine Brennan, thanks for coming in.

Ms. BRENNAN: Oh, thanks for having me.

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