The 2015 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship and Women’s Final Four hosted in Tampa Bay resulted in successes across multiple platforms.
The Women’s Final Four attendance totaled 39,540, marking the highest attendance for the Women’s Final Four in the last five years. The national championship game attendance reached 19,810 fans in Amalie Arena.
In addition, the first and second rounds of the championship, taking place at the top 16 hosting sites under the new Division I women’s basketball format, recorded the second-highest total attendance since 2004. The overall 2015 Division I Women’s Basketball Championship also recorded the third-highest number of fans since 2004, with a total of 239,746 going through the turnstiles.
“The 2015 championship was a great achievement on many levels and we are thankful for all who played a role in that success,” said Anucha Browne, the NCAA’s vice president for women’s basketball championships. “The new format that included top 16 seeds hosting first- and second-round play and playing games on different days of the week worked well. The overall attendance increases, substantial media interest and an extraordinary Women’s Final Four, which was marked by progress in attracting outside women’s groups around the event, all served to make this a significant year for the championship.”
ESPN’s exclusive presentation of the four regional finals averaged a 0.82 rating/share, up five percent from the previous year.
The national semifinals on ESPN grossed 2.2 million total viewers, up seven percent from the previous year. The doubleheader also averaged a 1.36 rating/share, up two percent from the 2014 Women’s Final Four.
The NCAA women’s national championship had 3.1 million viewers with a 2.02 household coverage rating.
“We were pleased in how the 2015 championship provided great competition and compelling storylines throughout March and into early April,” said Dru Hancock, chair of the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee and the senior associate commissioner of the Big 12 Conference. “Our goal every year is for the championship experience to be all that it can be for the 64 participating teams and almost 1,000 student-athletes, and we feel that it was accomplished again in 2015.”
The women’s basketball tournament grossed 14.2 million total social impressions across Facebook and Twitter for an 86 percent increase over 2014. Total fan engagement increased 346 percent from 2014 and the audience grew by 10,635. The Women’s Final Four week alone delivered 272 posts for a total of 6.4 million social impressions across Twitter and Facebook.
Fan events and participation
Women’s Final Four week included a variety of fan events.
More than 26,308 people attended Tourney Town presented by Capital One, which was the third highest attendance in the event’s history.
The Fan-Sparilla fan celebration event on Friday, April 3, celebrated the local Tampa spirit with 2,500 in attendance with food trucks, local bands and fireworks lighting the sky over the Tampa Riverwalk.
Approximately 1,200 youth, along with additional parents and guardians, participated in the Bounce by the Bay refreshed by Coca-Cola on Sunday, April 5, receiving t-shirts and basketballs.
More than 6,500 fans attended Super Saturday, viewing the four teams’ open practices and the team autograph sessions presented by AT&T.
In honor of the late North Carolina State head women's basketball coach Kay Yow, over 1,200 runners participated in the 4Kay Run presented by Northwestern Mutual on Saturday, April 4.
The NCAA women’s basketball staff also hosted its second Women’s Final Four Summit on April 6, in conjunction with the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Convention. The Summit was an open discussion between coaches, college athletics administrators and other key figures in the women’s basketball community around the business of the game and featured information and more findings gathered by Performance Research.
The NCAA Women’s Final Four Legacy Restoration program presented by Lowe’s and NCAA Team Works combined efforts with the Nancy Lieberman Foundation’s Dream Courts program to build an outdoor basketball court and refurbish the grounds at the Freddie Solomon Boys & Girls Club in Tampa. The dedication ceremony was held on Monday, March 30, and tipped off Women’s Final Four week.
Almost 600 youth participated in the Coca-Cola NCAA Youth Clinics during the Women’s Final Four at various locations in the Tampa Bay area. Children ages 3-8 received sport instruction from NCAA coaches and student-athletes as well as free t-shirts and other promotional items.
The NCAA and Coca-Cola also sponsored the first-of-its-kind Youth Wheelchair Basketball Clinic at All People’s Life Center in Tampa. Targeted for Paralympic Sport Tampa Bay athletes ages 7-18 whose home base is at the site, the event featured Paul Shulte, a two-time U.S. Paralympic gold medalist and four-time National Wheelchair Basketball Association champion who, at the age of 10, was paralyzed in a head-on car collision.
The NCAA also engaged in several sustainability initiatives. In collaboration with the Tampa Bay Local Organizing committee, the University of South Florida and Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, NCAA Community 101 helped clean the Courtney Campbell Causeway in Tampa.
Volunteers in the Tampa Bay area were again significant to the success of the 2015 Women’s Final Four, with nearly 2,000 volunteer shifts filled in a variety of capacities.
"We truly appreciate the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Committee and staff affording us the amazing opportunity to host the 2015 NCAA Women's Final Four," said Rob Higgins, Tampa Bay local organizing committee executive director. "Since we first hosted in 2008, we've been focused on raising the bar and delivering an unforgettable experience for the student-athletes, coaches and fans. Thanks to the hard work of countless community partners, this year's Women's Final Four earned high praise and produced memories that will last a lifetime. We could not be more excited to begin our preparations to host again in 2019."
Preparations have now begun for the 2016 NCAA Women’s Final Four to be held April 3 and 5 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Next year will feature a celebration of women’s basketball, with the NCAA Division II and III women’s basketball national championships also being decided at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on April 4. Full event information will soon be available at http://www.ncaa.com/womens-final-four.