May 25, 2023 - Sports

Why the NCAA Women's Final Four will matter in Cleveland next year

Members of the CSU women's basketball team celebrating, with white championship hats on

Destiny Leo (center) and the CSU women's basketball team celebrate their Horizon League championship this year. Photo: Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NCAA Women's Final Four is coming to Cleveland next year, at a time when women's basketball is surging in popularity.

Driving the news: Monica Gustin, executive director of next year's tournament, touted its economic impact and game-growing potential in a City Club forum Wednesday.

  • Gustin appeared alongside CSU head women's basketball coach Chris Kielsmeier, former Cleveland Rockers head coach Dan Hughes and Cavs senior manager of youth basketball operations Jessica Davis.

By the numbers: Last year, 9.9 million viewers watched the NCAA women's championship on ESPN, the most-watched collegiate basketball game on record.

  • The tournament was held in Dallas to sellout crowds, and Gustin said she expects a full house in Cleveland next year.

Flashback: Cleveland last hosted the NCAA Women's Final Four in 2007, when Tennessee — led by future WNBA phenom Candace Parker — defeated Rutgers in the championship game.

  • According to the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, more than 25,000 people visited Cleveland for the tournament and spent more than $10 million on local goods and services.

Zoom in: The CSU women's basketball team, led by guard Destiny Leo, made it to the NCAA tournament this year and earned the sort of prominent local media coverage that had been elusive for women's teams.

What they're saying: "This isn't the '50s anymore," Kielsmeier said.

  • "We need to keep talking about women's athletics and give them a platform equal to men."

Of note: Next year's tourney will conclude one day before the total solar eclipse in Cleveland, which means hotel rooms and Airbnb's will be hard to come by.


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