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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A Grip on Sports: Little surprises us these days but we share some numbers that do as well as a few other sports-related items

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Let’s take a quick spin around the dial, shall we?


• We start with the latest TV ratings book. The all-important numbers. For the first-time ever, the NCAA women’s national game, Sunday afternoon on ABC, pulled in more eyeballs than the men’s game Monday night on TBS.

Let that sink in. To help, here’s some perspective. In 1995, a year we will mention again a bit later, the men’s game on CBS between UCLA and Arkansas, a school we will mention again a bit later, had more than 27 million viewers. The women? A showdown between the preeminent powers, Connecticut and Tennessee, drew about 7.4 million, also on CBS.

In the past 30 years, everything’s changed. The men’s game peaked at 28.3 two years later. Only in 2015 – Duke vs. Wisconsin – was that number approached again. It has fallen since, hitting a low of 14.7 million last year on CBS.

The women’s game has a different trajectory. Since 1996, when ESPN took over, it hovered near or below 5 million viewers. Until last year. When 9.9 million watched LSU defeat Caitlin Clark and Iowa on ABC. But that was just prelude. To now.

All the numbers have been tabulated. Iowa’s loss to South Carolina on Sunday was viewed by an average of nearly 18.9 million folks. Purdue’s loss to UConn the next night? A bit more than 14.8 million tuned in.

Want reasons? We offer Clark’s star power. Network vs. cable. Possibly it’s because the men’s game has been disrupted more by the changes in college athletics, from NIL to the transfer portal to conference realignment. It could also be the coming of age of the younger female viewer, who has spent their entire life immersed in sports’ culture. Or, just maybe, the play on the court is more appealing. Who knows for sure? No one.

As we don’t know if it will last. But, actually, we don’t care. We celebrate the nation understanding something we’ve understood for almost 50 years. Basketball is basketball, no matter who is playing. The game is the game. It’s fun to watch. It’s entertainment, competition and action. Regardless of the gender, age or talent level of the participants.

• The Masters is also fun to watch, even with the Grand Canyon-size chasm in the game of professional golf these days. It’s not the players, per se, that attracts some of us. It’s the playing ground.

Sure, we tuned in to watch Jack Nicklaus when we were young. Tiger Woods when we weren’t. But the stars just showed us the beauty and challenge of Augusta National, the one venue the other side of Circling Raven of which we can describe every hole and every shot needed to be successful.

That’s what five decades of viewing brings. You fall in love with the 11th hole. Come to understand the nuances of the 16th. Know exactly what type of tee shot is required to birdie No. 2. Sure, we couldn’t hit a single darn one of them, but we live vicariously through those who can. In April. Every year.

• David Riley has his work cut out for him. The rebuild at Washington State may have to come through the transfer portal exclusively. The second of two high school seniors committed to the Cougars announced yesterday he’s following Kyle Smith to Stanford as well.

The Cougars finished 2024 as the nation’s 23rd-ranked team. They will start 2025 with a new coach, a roster devoid of many returnees and the challenge of a new conference. It won’t be easy. But we also won’t bet against Riley.

• We promised to get back to 1995. Did you know that UCLA team was arguably the best the Pac-12 produced in its Pac-10/12 history? At least Jon Wilner thinks so. He has his list. How would you rank the teams?

And the Bruins’ opponent that year, Arkansas? It’s back in the news again, with the school serving as a landing spot for out-going Kentucky coach John Calipari. The Wildcat coach announced yesterday he’s leaving Lexington. He was named the Arkansas coach this morning. Just think. It’s been almost 40 years since Kentucky lured Eddie Sutton away from the Razorbacks, ticking off every Arkansas booster from Springdale to Bentonville – and beyond. They haven’t forgotten. And they finally got their revenge.


WSU: One thing Riley has going for him is he runs an egalitarian offense that strives to spread the court and get everyone great shots. Greg Woods delves into how it works this morning. … Greg also has stories on recruit Tallis Toure deciding to switch to Stanford and former Central Valley High star Dylan Darling finding a new home at Idaho State. … The Toure news was a big deal at Stanford as well. … Switching gears to football, Greg examines the quarterback competition this spring as Jake Dickert tries to decide who replaces Cam Ward as the signal caller. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, legendary coach Tara VanDerveer announced her retirement Tuesday night. We would love to say we were surprised but we’re not. We spoke with VanDerveer briefly on and off the record when her Cardinal team was in town last year to play Gonzaga. The tone of both conversations made it clear the direction – literally, when you consider Stanford will play in the ACC next season – of college sports was something she was worried about. And then she ascended the mountain top with her 1,203 win, passing Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski for the most all-time in Division I. What else was there to go? It was time. VanDerveer finished the season with 1,216 victories, just three ahead of Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma, who will take over the top spot next season. But her legacy has so many more layers than that. She will be missed. … The speculation is already out there on who may replace Calipari at Kentucky. UConn’s Danny Hurley quickly said “not it.” … A Washington football player has been arrested and charged on rape allegations. … Oregon was back at it yesterday, with the Ducks’ new running backs coach on the scene. So was new quarterback Dillon Gabriel, as he’s been all spring. … Bad news for Oregon State. The Beavers’ biggest star, running back Damien Martinez, is planning to enter the transfer portal. It was reported yesterday he was receiving $400,000 in NIL money. … Maybe he’s headed to Colorado, which is re-focusing on the running game. … Utah may be looking for a backup quarterback. … UCLA has to find an edge rusher as it loses another one. … USC is losing an inside force. … Arizona seems to be focused on improvement this spring. … Another UW basketball player has entered the portal. … A key Arizona player has done the same thing. … Utah’s women had a successful season.

Gonzaga: We mentioned the final men’s A.P. poll above. Theo Lawson covers it with an emphasis on the Bulldogs’ finishing 15th.

EWU and Idaho: Around the Big Sky, besides the Darling-to-Idaho-State news, we pass along the news the Montana women have added a transfer with height. … A Griz football player is dealing with an awful loss.

Preps: There is a Sandpoint tennis player who has a USTA title in her trophy case. Charlotte McKinley introduces us to Pepper Rickert.

Indians: One thing that seems obvious four games in? Spokane’s starters can deal. The Indians are 4-0 after Mason Green’s six shutout innings keyed a 4-0 win over host Tri-City on Tuesday night. Dave Nichols has this story. … Elsewhere in the Northwest League, Eugene defeated host Everett 6-3 and Vancouver won its first home game, 5-4 over Hillsboro.

Mariners: The last seven games have resulted in six losses. Could there be a bit of a fire under Scott Servais’ seat? With George Kirby struggling again, the M’s fell 5-3 to host Toronto last night. … Bryce Miller’s usage is used as an example of the danger facing pitchers these days. The threat hasn’t grown all that much in the past 10 years. … Ty France may not have been doing a lot of sleeping but he’s been doing a lot of hitting.

Seahawks: We linked Matt Calkins’ column on the offseason tumult before in the Times. We do it again today as it ran in the S-R. … Most draft “experts” expect the Hawks to pick someone from the trenches in the first round.

Kraken: Shane Wright scored again and Seattle won once more. Maybe the guy should have been playing all year.

Sounders: Raul Ruidiaz has been impressive thus far.

Reign: The USWNT team won the SheBelieves Cup in a shootout over Canada.


• Kim is back in town. Life is back to normal. We can breathe again. Until later …