In the words of Beyoncé, who run the world? It may just be women’s college sports.
ESPN PR announced on Tuesday that the 2021–22 NCAA women’s sports season was a record year across its platforms. Three separate sports championships amassed the best audiences in over a decade—volleyball, basketball and gymnastics.
Volleyball’s 1.2 million was the best on record as Wisconsin took the win, basketball tallied its highest since 2004 (4.85 million) as South Carolina topped UConn and gymnastics saw 922,000 viewers for its team final, its best since 2011, as Oklahoma bested Florida and Auburn.
For comparison, Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals on NBC, which determined Tampa Bay Lightening’s title victory, averaged 3.51 million viewers.
Volleyball saw two national title games in the same year as the 2020 season was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kentucky won in the spring, but the reign only last eight months before Wisconsin took the crown, setting the best audience on record for the sport on ESPN networks. The Badgers had to overcome an unbeaten Louisville in the semifinals and beat Nebraska in a five-set stretch for the title.
South Carolina women’s basketball team found redemption as it returned to the national championship, its second title in six years. However, it also marked coach Geno Auriemma and UConn’s first loss in a national championship game. ESPN previously released some of the audience data for the national title game, and the ratings showed an 18% increase from the previous year.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s NCAA gymnastics championship, which aired on ABC, became the most watched college gymnastics meet ever on an ESPN network. Oklahoma may have left with the national title over Florida, Auburn and Utah, but there was a star-studded lineup that included the Gators’ Trinity Thomas, Tigers’ Suni Lee and Utah’s own Jaedyn Rucker. The three gymnasts won individual national champion titles on Thursday, Thomas taking all-around, floor and uneven bars, Lee snagging beam and Rucker leaving with vault.
Here are what a few of the individual national title routines looked like during the team semifinals.
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