By R.L. Bynum
Odds are that the vast majority of passionate Carolina women’s basketball fans also avidly follow UNC men’s basketball and football.
Television rights holders don’t seem to care that those women’s hoops fans would prefer to be able to watch Coach Courtney Banghart’s 8–0 team, ranked No. 24 in the coaches poll, without missing a men’s basketball game or a football game.
For an up-and-coming program that deserves more support than it gets, you aren’t going to attract the casual fan to Carmichael Arena when there are such conflicts. Whether it’s the athletics department, the ACC or the league’s TV partners, the people who create the conflicts shouldn’t inconvenience fans so often.
The latest avoidable conflict came down earlier this week.
Tar Heels fans who wanted to attend the Duke’s Mayo Bowl matchup in Charlotte with South Carolina at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 30 had a chance to watch the football game and still make it to Carmichael Arena later that day to see the UNC women face Syracuse and miss little or none of that 6 p.m. game.
That chance was dashed Wednesday when the ACC Network, which was already set to air the women’s game, shifted the start time to 4 p.m.
A post on Inside Carolina’s women’s basketball message board probably conveys the sentiments of a lot of other women’s hoops fans who also follow the football team.
UNC women’s basketball fans will be forced to choose which game to attend.
Fortunately for them, there won’t be any more choices like that, barring schedule changes, for the rest of the women’s team’s regular season. But there have already been several cases where women’s basketball fans had to choose between watching Carolina’s women or the men.
On opening night, those fans had a decent deal, assuming they could get off of work early. The women’s team opened with a 92–47 win at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 9 against N.C. A&T and fans had just enough time to walk over to the Smith Center to see the men’s team beat Loyola Maryland 83–67 in a game that started at 7 p.m.
Since then, the schedule makers have conspired to force women’s hoops fans to choose between watching one UNC basketball team or the other.
- On Nov. 21, the men’s team faced Tennessee in the consolation game of the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at 3:30 p.m. and the women played at TCU at 4:30 p.m. In that case, you can blame the men’s team for losing to Purdue. Had they won that game, that Sunday men’s game would have been at 1 p.m.
- On Dec. 1, the only night when there were men’s and women’s games in the respective Big Ten/ACC Challenges, both UNC teams played at virtually the same time. The women played at Minnesota at 9 p.m. and the men played host to Michigan at 9:20 p.m. The games finished two minutes apart. Two other ACC schools had the men and women both play that night but there was only a conflict for Virginia Tech (women played at 7:15 and the men played at 7:30). The women’s and men’s teams at N.C. State and Duke played on separate nights during the Challenges.
- Last Sunday, the women’s team blew out James Madison at Carmichael Arena in a game that started at 2 p.m. and the men’s team knocked off Georgia Tech in a 3 p.m. start (not that most fans could watch the first half of the latter game because of an ESPN2 debacle.) Oddly, the men’s game originally was going to start at 4 p.m. but ESPN requested that it be moved an hour earlier.
By the way, because UNC’s game at Minnesota didn’t start until 9 p.m., Carlie Littlefield, who — like teammate Eva Hodgson is enrolled in the Kenan-Flagler Business School MBA program — had to be part of a class presentation the next day on 90 minutes of sleep.
As long as they have the afternoon off from work, fans will get another doubleheader Tuesday, Dec. 21 when the women face Alabama State in Carmichael at 1 p.m. and the men meet Appalachian State at the Smith Center at 7 p.m.
Luckily for those fans, the women’s team and the men’s team aren’t scheduled to play the same day for the rest of the season.
They do hope, though, that the women’s team plays March 9 when Carolina’s men play at Duke at 6 p.m. That would mean that the UNC women are in an ACC women’s tournament semifinal at either noon or 2:30 p.m.
In future seasons, hopefully, the athletics program, the league and TV partners will somehow make it easier for fans to follow both the women’s team and the men’s team — and the football team.
If you haven’t been out to Carmichael Arena this season, there’s a good chance at 2 p.m. Sunday when the Tar Heels play UNC Asheville.
Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications