‘It’s great for Big East basketball’: DePaul and UConn to play the first women’s game on Fox


David Butler II/Pool Photo via AP

DePaul guard Sonya Morris (11) is defended by Connecticut guard Christyn Williams (13) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Storrs, Conn

When the Big East was in talks about UConn possibly returning to the conference, DePaul women’s basketball head coach Doug Bruno was one of the strongest advocates for the Huskies’ return.

But why? Why would Bruno want to see one of college basketball’s most elite programs make its way back to the Big East?

“Nobody wanted UConn in the Big East more than coach Bruno here,” Bruno said. “So, I’m really, really a big advocate for UConn in our league.” 

The reasons are actually pretty simple as to why Bruno wanted them back in the league. UConn, who left for the American Athletic Conference in 2013 before returning in 2020, raises the level of competition and also increases media exposure.

And that is why the Huskies and the Blue Demons will play the first ever women’s basketball game on Fox on Sunday. UConn is the most decorated program in women’s basketball history, and DePaul has been a beacon of consistency since Bruno took over as head coach. 

“We have been asked to play in this game, and I think Fox deserves a lot of credit because they are the network that supported our national women’s soccer program,” Bruno said. “Without Fox’s promotion of our women’s soccer program, we never would have had the amount of visibility for women’s sports. I just really applaud Fox for their efforts in women’s sports.” 

While UConn brings a lot to the table in terms of its brand and large fan base, it takes two teams to make this type of game happen on Fox. DePaul has been one of the most consistent teams in college basketball over the last 20 years, qualifying for 18 consecutive NCAA Tournaments and winning six Big East regular season titles since 2013.

That’s why when Fox made a decision to offer the Big East a chance to televise the first ever women’s basketball game on its network, they wanted the two teams to be DePaul and UConn.

“Well it was, it was more or less, Fox basically made a decision that this was as attractive of a women’s basketball game as we can deliver,” said Rick Gentile, head of broadcasting for the Big East. “And they asked if it was possible to do it in the scheduling process, and there was an opening and they went for it.” 

All of UConn’s games are on television now, either on FS1, FS2, SNY or  ESPN. DePaul, on the other hand, has seen an increase this season in nationally televised games to eight from two last season. The Blue Demons have already appeared on ESPN earlier this season when they played Louisville in the Jimmy V Classic. 

“It’s great, it’s great for Big East basketball,” Gentile said. “Welcoming UConn back to the Big East, it was going to be great for women’s basketball. All of their games are on television one way or another, either on Fox, CBS or SNY. And honestly, I did not think we would get a game on Fox this quickly. I think it’s a tribute, not just obviously to UConn, but I think it’s a tribute to coach Bruno and DePaul. I don’t know another program playing against UConn would have been as attractive to Fox. They specifically wanted this matchup and I think it’s a tribute to the success that coach Bruno has had at DePaul.”

Anyone that has attended a Bruno press conference or has had the chance to interview him knows that he is always advocating for the growth of women’s basketball. He always ends his press conferences or interviews by thanking the media for covering women’s basketball. 

As much as the game has grown over the last 10-15 years, there is still a long way to go before it has the same coverage as men’s basketball. 

“Mainstream media exposure, and by that I mean electronic and written mainstream media, is vital to the growth of all sports,” Bruno. “No sport can grow without mainstream media. Network television and the world wide web are just vital to the growth of all sports.” 

The Huskies and the Blue Demons met on Dec. 29 in Connecticut for the first time this season, with UConn winning 75-52. DePaul’s all-time record against UConn is 1-18, with the lone victory coming in 1983. 

The Blue Demons are going to have to make some adjustments this time around in order to knock off the third-ranked team in the country. 

“There’s two or three different things, we have to do a better job of interior defending,” Bruno said. “We have to do a better job of rebounding, and then offensively, our shot selection has to be more out of a rhythm. I thought we forced some shots in game one.”