Gary Blair Got It Right


And happily I got it wrong.

The folksy, meandering coach of Texas A&M was telling everybody that the absence of UConn and Stanford in the women’s NCAA basketball championship was good for the sport. His logic, which I agreed with, was that women’s hoops and the distaff version of March Madness would benefit in the long run from teams other than the perennial powers having a chance to win the national championship.

Where I disagreed was with the nation’s potential audience for a title tilt that matched Blair’s Aggies with Muffet McGraw’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish, rather than Geno Auriemma and Maya Moore’s Huskies looking to three-peat in a rematch versus Tara VanDeveer’s Cardinal, which ended UConn’s record 90-game winning streak late last year, after losing in the 2010 championship game.

Surely, I wrote early morning April 4, sans those compelling storylines between those brand names - A&M and ND made sure that Tennessee and Baylor, the tourney’s other No. 1 seeds, weren’t around either — the April 5 title game at Conseco Field House would suffer with the Nielsens.

Well, I shot an airball with that prediction. ESPN scored a 2.8 rating and 3.83 million viewers for Texas A&M-ND, gains of 4% and 8% over UConn’s win over Stanford in 2010. Those who did watch were rewarded with a stellar performance by A&M’s All-American Danielle Adams, who netted 30 and the no longer silent assassin Tyra White’s clinching three with a tick left on the shot clock, not to mention the stylish play of Irish point Skylar Diggins and the fire of forward Devereaux Peters. The 76-70 contest was as compelling as UConn’s 53-41 victory over Butler in the men’s final was lousy - the Bulldogs shot a championship game low 18%.

I’m not sure whether the viewers came to ESPN because they were ND alum, loathed Auriemma’s success in Storrs or wanted to see the college season conclude on a good note after the men’s mess from Reliant Stadium. Hopefully, they came because they were basketball fans and believed in Blair’s take on what’s good for the sport.

Congrats Coach on the call and the well-deserved championship.