When it comes to dual success at the highest levels of men’s and women’s college basketball, the Connecticut Huskies are in a class of their own. The university’s two programs have combined for a total of 166 NCAA Tournament wins, higher than the totals from the men’s and women’s teams of any other university. Still, though, the disparity between these two powerhouses is larger than many would expect.
The Connecticut men have won four national titles and been to seven Elite Eights since 1999. This year, though, the program has fallen on hard times with a 10-11 start. A fifth national title this spring seems highly unlikely. Connecticut has only a 450 to 1 chance to win the 2017 NCAA Championship, according to these odds. That’s worse than Auburn’s or Seton Hall’s.
Still, overall, four titles and seven Elite Eights is really good. Yet it’s nowhere near good enough to keep pace with coach Geno Auriemma’s juggernaut. Since 2000, the women Huskies have won nine national titles and made 15 or 16 Elite Eights. This kind of extraterrestrial success translates into the fourth-largest disparity in Division I NCAA when it comes to women’s program success relative to their male counterparts.
The highlighted column in the below chart shows the difference between the Connecticut men’s NCAA tourney all-time total in wins (58) and women’s all-time total (107) is 48. In terms of gender success gap, that trails only Stanford (57), Louisiana Tech (61) and Tennessee (104)
*Above data, drawn from NCAA.org, is current through April 1, 2016.
If you’re interested in parity, it appears no major college program does the Title IX thing better than the Maryland. The men Terrapins have an all-time NCAA Tournament record of 41-25 while the women clock in at 42-23. Both have exactly one national title.
So, what about the men-dominant programs?
Good question, arbitrarily inserted headline.
It’s no surprise that the blueboods of college basketball are at the top of the list when it comes to men’s program-to-women’s program win disparity. Much of this is a function of the fact that the men’s NCAA Tournament started in 1939 while the women’s version started in 1982. A four-decades-long head start in winning usually builds pretty large gaps.
So we see a situation in which some very good women’s programs like Duke and North Carolina are still in the Top 7 in terms of disparity because of the strength of their counterparts.
Biggest Gaps Between Successful Men’s Programs and their Female Counterparts
It may surprise some fans that so many of these men’s juggernauts have not yet been able to find a way to cultivate more success for their female counterparts. Some female programs, like Kentucky’s, have made strides in recent years but it’s hard to close the gap when
a) the men’s program’s even higher levels of success widens it year by year
b) In the 1980s, much smaller programs like Louisiana Tech and Old Dominion took up a disproportionate share of the available NCAA Tournament wins
c) Since then, Tennessee, Stanford and Connecticut have swallowed up a much larger share of all available tourney wins. That trio of programs has been far more successful than any men’s trio over the same amount of time.
In essence, the women’s teams at the top of my first chart play a big role in making it so hard for almost all other women’s teams to develop serious momentum.
“I’ll tell you how far you can go” – Geno Auriemma
Perhaps that begins to change this weekend. The Syracuse women’s team has made it the Final Four. This marks the first time that an historically sub .500 NCAA Tournament program (e.g. Indiana, Michigan, Arizona, Villanova, Cincinnati) has made it this far. To win the title, though, the Syracuse women would likely have to beat Connecticut in the championship round. That’s a very tall order, but doing so may create enough shock waves and recruiting momentum to help start closing the chasm between the Syracuse men’s and women’s teams.
Unless, of course, the Syracuse men steal said thunder and win it all this year, too.
For more about the juggernaut Huskies, check out my BestOfArkansasSports.com piece on the first Arkansan to receiver a scholarship offer from Auriemma’s program.