NCAA, ESPN softball scheduling woes continue


Once again, scheduling at the Women’s College World Series is a point of contention for coaches and fans.

Oklahoma exploded offensively in Game 2 to force a Game 3 in the series and, despite the fact that the two teams will be playing for a national title, the game is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET on Thursday instead of primetime.

The scheduling issue came up earlier in the tournament, after Florida State and Oklahoma State played a WCWS game Sunday that started around midnight due to a rain delay and didn’t end until after 3 a.m. ET. Just 12 hours later, Florida State was back at it, playing Alabama at 3:30 p.m. ET on Monday for a spot in the championship series.

“It’s very uncomfortable when we are talking to our players about standing up for what is right, yet what is happening around us is not right,” Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said earlier this week. “And the players will do whatever you put in front of them. They’re not going to complain. They’re going to go to bed at 3, wake up at 7, because it’s the World Series. But that’s not the memory they need to have.”

It’s not the first time that Gasso has raised the issue of the WCWS format with the NCAA. About a month ago, she pointed out the differences between the men’s and women’s tournaments — namely that the men’s College World Series stretches out over nearly two weeks and doesn’t include doubleheaders, while the women’s tournament is more compressed.

The men’s and women’s World Series events drew similar television ratings in 2019. This year, viewership for the softball tournament has been up. The first game of the championship series averaged 1,862,000 viewers on ESPN, a 37 percent increase over last year’s Game 1 and the largest audience for a Finals Game 1 on record.

Despite this, the final game of the WCWS — the one that will crown a national champion — airs at 3 p.m. ET midweek. ESPN, which has contractual obligations with the NBA, has an NBA playoff doubleheader scheduled for Thursday night.

As Michigan State coach Jacquie Joseph told the Washington Post in April: “What’s lower than an afterthought? That’s us.”

Tune in to watch Oklahoma and Florida State battle it out for the national title at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN.