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Research study finds women’s basketball fans seek entertainment, more stories about the players and coaches

More than 1,500 respondents, including avid and casual fans and even parents of young girls, took part in the survey

Key findings in a women’s basketball research study showed that fans want to be entertained and want to know more personal stories about the players and coaches involved with the sport.

The study’s results, gathered by Performance Research, will be shared during the 2015 Women’s Basketball Summit from 2-4 p.m. today in Tampa, Florida. The summit will be an open discussion among coaches, college athletics administrators and other key figures in the women’s basketball community. The public can watch the summit live via web streaming at http://www.ncaa.com/WFFSummit.

Based in Newport, Rhode Island, the research firm regularly compiles data-driven research for the NCAA.

The Performance Research online survey was conducted in October and November with 1,500 respondents nationally. Those surveyed included:

  • Parents of young girls.
  • Local residents in college communities.
  • Faculty/staff at colleges and universities.
  • Students at colleges and universities.
  • Avid fans of women’s college basketball.
  • Casual fans of women’s college basketball.
  • Current fans of men’s basketball.
  • Current fans of other women’s college sports.
  • Women in leadership positions.
  • The business community.

The responses to the online questionnaire delved deeper into issues raised in a white paper about issues facing women’s basketball, which was written by Val Ackerman in February 2014 before she was named commissioner of the Big East Conference.

“The white paper was very qualitative,” said NCAA Vice President of Women’s Basketball Championships Anucha Browne. “This research study is more quantitative. When you divide this information up to specific market segments, you get to the core of these issues. What might be an issue to one core segment may not be for another segment. The beauty in this is finding ways we can impact all the core segments.”

Florida State University women’s basketball coach Sue Semrau, who guided her team to the regional finals in Greensboro, North Carolina, last week, believes leaders in the sport should take the information and deliver what interests the fan base.

“As coaches we are always thinking about what is important to make our teams better,” said Semrau, who is also the president of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. “You have to develop players, but we have to find ways to put a great product on the floor as well.”

Jed Pearsall, the president and founder of Performance Research, which regularly compiles data-driven research for the NCAA, said one of the common themes that stood out in the findings was that respondents from all 10 categories are driven by being sure they will have a good time at an event.

“That is really what it comes down to,” Pearsall said. “People want high-level entertainment.”

The next step will be trying to figure out exactly what being “entertained” means to the fans. The survey suggests respondents don’t need rules changes that enhance play; rather, they are more interested in enhanced in-venue experiences.

“What you see on campus during the regular season is a more festive environment,” Browne said. “Through the years when you come to the NCAA tournament, it is a more sterile environment. We have started to address those issues. We allowed the schools who hosted the first and second rounds of the tournament this year to do more things to create a festive atmosphere. They can play more music; they can have an on-court contest or bring in someone to perform at halftime. Those kinds of things are common during the regular season and for some reason at the championship, it became a more sterile environment. We’ve dialed that back.”

Another area that could spur growth in the game is more human interest stories about the players and coaches.

“One of the things that came through in the study is people matter,” Pearsall said. “They want to know what the players and coaches do in their lives and in the community. They want to have a person or persona to follow that can help them latch onto the sport. The more they know about the players and coaches, the more likely people are to be engaged.”

Semrau feels the results of the survey can lay a good road map to grow the sport. Overall, the respondents believe that women’s college basketball is in good shape. Any moves in the future, Semrau said, should be made to improve the sport, not out of desperation.

“We’ve grown up fast as a sport,” Semrau said. “Title IX allowed us to take some huge strides, and now we have to add some muscle. That’s where we are right now.”