LSU President Tate criticizes WNBA’s business model as ‘suboptimal’
BATON ROUGE, La. (WVUE) - LSU’s 102-85 National Championship win over Iowa was the most-watched event in the history of women’s college basketball.
However, several noteworthy names from that game that were drafted into the WNBA last month have already been waived from the rosters they were assigned to.
On Monday (May 15) night, the Los Angeles Sparks announced that they had waived former Iowa frontcourt starter Monika Czinano.
LSU University President William F. Tate IV responded to the news on social media by criticizing the WNBA, calling their business model “suboptimal”.
Former LSU starters LahDazhia Williams (Indiana Fever) and Alexis Morris (Connecticut Sun) were both drafted in the second round and have already been waived from their rosters, a month after being drafted. Williams has now landed in Israel and she will play for Hapoel Petah Tikva in the Israeli Female Basketball Premier League.
READ MORE Former LSU guard Alexis Morris waived by Sun
The WNBA is often compared to its male counterpart, the NBA, which banks on the star power of their league’s players for worldwide marketability. In comparison, the WNBA is a young league, founded in 1996. The NBA was founded in 1946 with longstanding roots in American sports.
To Tate’s point, the new NCAA rule changes to the transfer portal and money earned through NIL deals have furthered the brand of college sports, specifically women’s basketball, by giving their game marketable and identifiable stars that sell tickets.
In LSU’s projected starting five for next season, Angel Reese, Hailey Van Lith, and Flau’jae Johnson also make the list for three of the top five NIL earners in women’s hoops. Reese alone earns $1.4 million in the top spot of those rankings.
According to Bloomberg, the average WNBA player makes $130,000 per year during the regular season, far less than the multi-million dollar earnings of the male players in the NBA. Women players often find more lucrative opportunities overseas in the offseason, which is why Brittany Griner was in Russia.
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NCAA rule changes give women’s hoops an upper hand when it comes to keeping their stars. While NIL deals are available for all college athletes, male basketball players that have professional opportunities rarely stay with programs for more than 1-2 years because the payoff is still grander elsewhere. However, in the women’s game, players are maxing out their eligibility, playing into graduate student status, and transferring to schools where they believe they are in the best situations.
The answer for the WNBA could still point towards time and patience. Player development has been key for the NBA in its 77-year history and they have multiple ways on how to do it. In 2001, 55 years after the NBA was founded, the league launched a series of farm teams now known as the G-League. Prior to the G-League, NBA teams were also able to draft project players and stash them in European leagues where they could play for contracts and develop before they were called up to an active NBA roster.
Currently, there is no farm system for the 26-year-old WNBA, but if a generation of younger stars continues to emerge, the league could be ready to expand.
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