“Go Hoosiers!! Yeaaa!!” Now there's a shout heard frequently in Indiana and one that conjures up the excitement of a good, competitive basketball game. Who can ignore the heart-thumping pressures of last-second, game-winning -- or -losing -- shots?

And we bet even the least of sports enthusiasts aren't immune to the fun, hype and hoopla that surround the annual NCAA tournament. We are fairly certain that many of our local readers are huge basketball fans, and that's a good thing, in our opinion. But we have to wonder if "Go Hoosiers!" stimulates thoughts of women's basketball or just the men's team?

Why is that? Well, thanks for asking.

"We were reminded of the last time we attended an IU women's game."

We are sports enthusiasts who especially like basketball and enjoy watching games both on TV and in person. The latter is more fun, of course, because of the contagious crowd spirit with cheering fans, blaring pep bands and brave cheerleaders who risk life and limb to enhance team spirit.

All of this is good, right? So what's the problem? Well, we were watching a basketball game the other evening and noticed the large crowd and the overall enthusiasm exhibited by the fans, and then the stark realism hit us. This was a women's basketball game, and we were reminded of the last time we attended an IU women's game.

In our experiences in Assembly Hall this year there were scant crowds of 500 to a 1,000 fans. True enough, those folks were seriously cheering and supportive, but come on -- 1,000 fans in an arena that holds 17,000-plus?! What kind of message does that send to the coaching staff and especially to the women ball players who work just as hard and are just as dedicated as the players on the guys’ team??!!

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An attitude of quiet dismissal toward female sports or, at best, barely an afterthought, is disgraceful, especially at a school such as IU that touts itself as bursting with major basketball fans and enthusiastic supporters.

"It's the same game played by powerfully skilled athletes."

We surmise that the love of basketball only counts when it’s men playing the game. This might hold true if it were a statewide representation, but the well-attended game we mentioned earlier was being played at a rival Indiana school.

So, what about all of the girls out there? What about the women's team here at IU? They are our sisters, cousins, daughters, granddaughters and, in some instances, mothers. Do they not deserve the same respect and support for their athletic prowess that their male counterparts receive?

And let's not overlook the fact that IU's women's team is not only a forceful leader in the Big Ten this year, it has remained scandal-free, no small feat given the recent history of the men's team that found itself in the midst of negative controversy and sanction by the NCAA for recruiting infractions.

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As we said earlier, we are sports enthusiasts who find as much enjoyment in watching women play as men. We've heard guys talk about how the game is just different when women play.

"It took an act of Congress before girls and women were provided with the same sports opportunities that boys and men took for granted."

Well, how so? Typically men are bigger than women and have a different type of physical strength, but we aren't talking about women playing men. We are talking about evenly matched, strong, athletic women who are on an equal playing level with one another and can battle against each other just as the men do on their teams. It's the same game played by powerfully skilled athletes.

We've also heard guys say that they just don't like seeing such strong women, or they aren't their type. Well, what is that all about? Does this mean that all guys are “attracted” to the male athletes and that attraction is a criterion for being a sports fan? Or is it that men see women only as sex objects and that the strong, powerful, athletic woman just doesn't meet the standard for typical male-to-female attractiveness?

Surely we don't have to rate players as potential mates or spouses to enjoy sports. Believe it or not, not all women are attracted to male athletes, either.

Perhaps men can't watch women performing in roles that have typically been seen as men's activities. Or they still tend to rate women's accomplishments based upon their sexual appeal.

Well, we say they need to get over it! (In case you wonder, our emphasis on male attitudes here is relevant, since societal perspectives and perceptions of acceptability are still driven by the patriarchy).

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Both women athletes and women sports are here to stay, growing stronger every day, and we know that individual attitudes and biases can be difficult to change.

"Title IX leveled the playing field for both sexes by focusing on the need for women to have equal opportunities as men."

But that's where the media enters the picture. We would love to see women's sports take front and center once in a while, at least. How about the top of the front page of the sports section for example instead of the bottom half and left or right of center, or not even mentioned at all?

And we would love to see TV and radio coverage of women's games improved. Improved? Well, maybe that isn't a strong enough directive since we've been at a loss to even learn game results from local Indy media this season.

If we recall correctly, it wasn't too long ago that we did hear reporting of women's teams on local news, but all of a sudden this year it's just missing.

And, since we are old enough to remember when the women's teams were totally ignored, or absent entirely (pre-Title IX days), we find it alarming that recognition is regressing after a progressive trend in reporting.

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Maybe folks need a refresher course in the history of women's sports, so we’ll remind them that it took an act of Congress before girls and women were provided with the same sports opportunities that boys and men took for granted.

Title IX of the educational amendments of 1972 was landmark legislation that banned sex discrimination in schools, both in academics and athletics. It read: "No person in the U.S. shall, on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program of activity receiving federal aid."

This was extremely controversial legislation at the time, and most criticism came from the athletic arena. Many voiced the opinion that it was unfair to provide female students with equal funding because most of them weren't interested in sports anyway, probably weren't competitive enough and would deprive deserving boys of opportunity.

"Both women athletes and women sports are here to stay, growing stronger every day."

This was a silly, yet typical, argument that ignored the fact that interest sometimes wanes when opportunity is denied. However, to the dismay of some, the legislation has prevailed and gains in both educational and academic areas are notable.

For instance, prior to Title IX, sports funding was reserved for the men's teams. Measly sums were set aside for women's “intramural” teams. Opportunities for female athletes were dismal at best, and many young women were discouraged from competing.

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Title IX leveled the playing field for both sexes by focusing on the need for women to have equal opportunities as men. While permitting schools flexibility to choose sports based upon student body interest, budget restraints and other factors, such as geographic influence, it required equal opportunity for women in all areas of participation.

Now you have to ask yourself what kind of country, purportedly founded upon democratic principles, specifically the principle of equal opportunity and equity, has to constantly legislate equity for various segments of its populace? Well, perhaps our ideals are just that, and we have to remain ever vigilant to make them a reality.

And that's why we're here -- to remind folks that there are lots of young women who are strong, determined athletes, and they deserve our enthusiastic support. If you don't believe us just check out any of the area sports complexes and watch these women at work. They are forces to be recognized and deserve the same kudos as the guys receive.

And, we might add, just having the opportunity to play isn't enough to build a fan base. Schools are responsible for image building, and money is spent in promoting various agendas. We would like to see more promotion of female sports and an increase in serious sports coverage and reporting.

Women athletes are just as authentic and accomplished as men and deserve equal time in the spotlight.

Helen Harrell and Carol Fischer can be reached at hharrell@indiana.edu and cafische@indiana.edu.