On Jan. 16, 2010, ESPN did something revolutionary for the time — they brought their famed “College GameDay” franchise to a women’s basketball game. The No. 1 UConn Huskies humbled the No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 70-46 and went on to win their seventh NCAA title a few months later. ESPN repeated the idea in January 2011 but waited 11 years to do it again. Now, in 2023, ESPN has three women’s basketball “College GameDay” trips planned, and Columbus, Ohio is a natural pick.
Tuesday, The Tennessean reported the news, and dropping the first matchup with the Worldwide Leader in Sports heading to Knoxville, Tennessee on Jan. 26. It pits the No. 4 UConn Huskies against the unranked Tennessee Volunteers. The other two games will be announced later in the season.
On paper, the matchup makes total sense. They’re two teams with the strongest histories in women’s college basketball, winning a combined 19 Division I titles out of 40 tournaments. UConn’s 11 championships made them media darlings, plus their proximity to the ESPN Bristol, Connecticut campus didn’t hurt either. Tennessee has the legend of Pat Summit and a rowdy fanbase.
All of that is great and will draw in fans and probably get ESPN the ratings numbers they want. Hear me out though, one of those two remaining, unannounced, games needs to be in Columbus, Ohio. It’s a no-brainer.
After all, who better for “College GameDay” to go to than Columbus? The school has a fanbase that’s been weaponized for GameDay on the football side for years. Ohio State’s hosted the show 22 times in football, and throw in a 23rd if you count the one game they came to for the men’s basketball team.
Tell fans of the Scarlet and Gray that ESPN is coming to Columbus and the Block O Women’s Basketball student section will get the people you need in the stands. Also, the team isn’t so bad either.
The Buckeyes are No. 3 in the country with wins against four ranked teams, including the Volunteers who will play in their third of four overall women’s College GameDay events this month. Ohio State beat the Vols like they did the Louisville Cardinals, Oregon Ducks, and Michigan Wolverines.
Ohio State also feature a type of blistering full-court press that gets people excited. Then they have players like guard Taylor Mikesell who can hit a three from the fifth row and freshman Cotie McMahon who won four Big Ten Player of the Week awards in a row.
They’re one of three undefeated teams in the entire country in arguably the strongest conference in the nation. The Big Ten features six teams in the AP top-25 poll. Ohio State plays games, in Columbus, against the No. 6 Indiana Hoosiers and No. 9 Maryland Terrapins (this one falling on the last day of the conference schedule for both teams with potential championship implications).
Another fantastic reason for choosing Brutus Buckeye over any of the other teams within the ESPN family of conference contracts is some diversity that shows the growth of the game.
No offense to UConn and Tennessee but featuring the two of them is like featuring another human-interest piece on Tom Brady. Ew.
UConn hasn’t won a title since 2016. Tennessee is a top team in the SEC in a year where only two SEC teams are actually good and nobody, not even the No. 5 LSU Tigers who haven’t played anyone of interest is close to the No. 1 North Carolina Gamecocks.
This won’t likely be the first time you’ve read this, but women’s college basketball is on a meteoric rise in popularity. All rounds of the NCAA women’s tournament grew 81% in viewership, compared to their y-chromosomed counterparts on the men’s side.
So why not help that grow in other areas of the country? College GameDay in Columbus could create a whole slew of new fans for head coach Kevin McGuff’s Buckeyes. Also, it could help fill the cavern that is the Schottenstein Center. Which is a win regardless of the result on the court when ESPN comes and visits Central Ohio.