Sunday, December 25, 2011


Originally written - January 2, 2011

Nearly one year ago UConn’s Geno Auriemma nearly eclipsed the feat of his women’s basketball team with a self-inflicted fur ball.  What follows is a re-issue of the article covering that occasion.

Congratulations to the University of Connecticut Women’s basketball team for their remarkable accomplishment: 90 consecutive wins, breaking the old record by the 1971-1974 UCLA Men’s Basketball team. 

If you simply wanted to enjoy UConn’s moment there was a problem that development almost immediately.  Supporters of Title IX and women’s basketball cried foul – they cited the tepid interest in UConn’s chance for the greatest number of consecutive basketball games as evidence of sexism and intolerance.  In other words, why was it that the nation’s attention barely nodded its approval at this feat?

The lead critic of this view was not Bella Abzug, the fiery former New York Congresswoman, nor was the critic an alumnae of Smith College like Betty Friedan or Gloria Steinem – surprisingly, the loudest basher of the media’s coverage of this streak was UConn Women’s coach Luigi (Geno) Auriemma, himself, an Italian immigrant with a blue collar work ethic.  In 1994, Auriemma became a naturalized United States citizen after 33 years living in America.  His Italian variation of the quintessential Horatio Alger story makes his recent comments all that more disappointing and confusing.

This is what he said earlier last week.

Because we're breaking a men's record, we've got a lot of people paying attention," Auriemma said. If we were breaking a women's record, everybody would go, 'Aren't those girls nice, let's give them two paragraphs in USA Today, you know, give them one line on the bottom of ESPN and then let's send them back where they belong, in the kitchen.'  Really coach?

This type of pandering is better associated with the grievance politics of Jesse Jackson, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times and Representative Maxine Waters of Los Angeles.  Auriemma should know better and he does know better.  His rhetoric is lazy and silly.  Let’s look at the facts.

The reason the media and public in general paid less attention to the 90 game winning streak is because women’s basketball is not played at the same caliber as men’s basketball.  Here are facts Mr. Auriemma.
  1. Stamina. 
Women’s basketball is played by women.  Women are slower and weaker.  Just look at the world records for 100 meter dash – the current men's world record is 9.58 second.  The current women's world record is10.49 seconds.  The difference is .91 seconds.  The female holder (Mrs. Griffith-Joyner) would have come in last place running at the men’s heat at the 2009 event.    

In the marathon category the same pattern is found.  The world record time for men is 2 hours 3 minutes and 59 seconds, set in the Berlin Marathon by Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia on September 28, 2008,

The world record for women in 2003 was 2 hours 15 minutes and 25 seconds.  This feat was done using male pacesetters.  The difference is 11 minutes and 26 seconds.

  1. Vertical Leap
According to, the average vertical leap of a woman between the ages of 21 and 25 is 14.1 inches, while the average vertical leap of a man in the same age range is 22.1 inches… Men leap higher for rebounds and shots than women do, and thus the slam dunk is an iconic part of the game of men's basketball, whereas in women's basketball it is nearly nonexistent. 

Coach Auriemma knows this fact.  Any team that can leap 8 inches higher is going to dominate the game.  The coach’s own Kara Wolters at 6’7” did not dunk the ball once during her career at UConn.  Women are built differently than men – their low center of gravity is suited for pregnancy – this may sound like a headline from Neanderthal Times, but it is still a fact.  I think I just heard the ladies from Connecticut Public Television collapse. This page was last modified on 3 November 2010 at 21:17.
Kara Wolters, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

  1. The Basketball Itself
The women’s basketball is smaller, lighter, and has a greater bounce.  That means that every shot by a female player is cheaper. Therefore the Men’s basketball on average is a full inch bigger in circumference, and the men’s basketball is on average .3 inches bigger in diameter.  Therefore when the ball is perfectly centered over the cylinder, there exists a .15 inch space from the ball to the rim.   In addition, the women’s three point line is a full one foot closer to the hoop.  Coach Auriemma, that means that every shot is easier to make and less challenging that the shots required of the men’s teams – but of course you already know that. 

  1. There is no 10 second rule for women to move the ball to the half court line.  This advantage is tempered somewhat by 30 seconds for women to take their shot versus men who get 35 seconds.

The big story should be how far women have come since they started playing basketball in bloomers.  The current configuration of five players playing over a full court was only inaugurated in 1971. 

Speaking about the Huskies, Bill Walton, the all-American center on those U.C.L.A. teams of the early 1970s, told The Associated Press: “They (UConn women) play with a great sense of team, great purpose, phenomenal execution of fundamentals, relentless attack. It is what every team should aspire to, regardless of the sport.”

Routinely, UConn schedules the toughest women’s teams in the country. Practices are taken no less lightly than games. The Huskies practice against male players, sometimes five women against six men. Come game time, UConn is unfailingly prepared. Great teams do not stumble into history, Auriemma has admonished his players in recent days.  Thomas Walker on December 21, 2010 in Sports
Speaking of my alma mater, I find the UConn women both stellar is their pursuit of perfection and wholesome in their public persona.  There are no tattoos that I can see and their shorts are worn correctly.  Their hustle and team play represents the best of collegiate sports and our country.  They also embody the ethos that it is okay to be feminine off the court and aggressive on it.  In other words they have a sense of sportsmanship and maturity that most men’s teams lack.
Congratulations to the Lady Huskies and may Luigi (Geno) Auriemma do what he does best: coach – leave the pandering to the professionals.
Words: 1078

Geoffrey Griswold Fisher is a native of Connecticut and currently resides in Sarasota, Florida.  Mr. Fisher holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Connecticut, 1978 and a Master of Arts in Public Policy from Trinity College, 2007.  In addition to being a certified history and government teacher, Mr. Fisher is a freelance writer on political and policy issues.

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