The Legacy Of Pat Summitt Could Spread To Tennessee Sports Betting

Posted on October 20, 2019 - Last Updated on March 9, 2020

Pat Summitt’s status as a legend in the Volunteer State is unquestioned. Her legacy might make college women’s basketball odds in Tennessee a reality.

All the success that Summitt had at Tennessee as head coach of the women’s basketball program brought a rare level of popularity. Because of that, future legal sportsbooks in Tennessee may want a piece of that action.

Breaking the glass ceiling on college women’s basketball odds

Though many legal sportsbooks have yet to operate during an NCAA women’s basketball season, it’s uncertain that books in some states will book action on the games.

The perception, right or wrong, could be that there’s not enough interest to justify the effort. In the Volunteer State, that perception is flat-out wrong.

Tennesseans support the Lady Volunteers basketball program at a rate unique around the country. Average attendance for the 2018-19 season was over 8,000. That’s better than all but six other D-1 institutions.

In addition, interest in viewing the women’s game is higher than ever. The most recent women’s national championship game was the second-most-watched event on television for the day it aired.

Nothing produces more excitement among fans than winning. A program has a sterling reputation when a 19-11 record and an 11-seed in the NCAA tournament is considered a “down year.”

Tennessee still demands attention from the nation’s best talent. The nation’s second-best prospect, Angel Reese, has the Lady Volunteers on her shortlist of five candidates.

The program Summitt built at Tennessee is remarkable because of the interest it demands. That interest could include future legal sportsbook operators in the state.

Why it might make ‘cents’ for sportsbooks to expand

Though the question of when Tennessee sports betting will begin remains unanswered, there’s little doubt that sportsbooks will have action on Volunteers men’s basketball games. It could make sense for them to include the women’s games as well.

Sportsbooks operate on hype and publicity. No other college athletic department provides more of that with its women’s basketball program than Tennessee.

The several legal books in Tennessee wouldn’t have to commit to offering odds on all the games at once. They could limit the action to just the bigger conference games as a “trial run.”

The Lady Vols have games on their schedule against Stanford, UConn and Mississippi State in the coming season. All three of those contests should receive top billing.

If interest in those games translates into interest in betting on the Lady Vols, sportsbooks won’t be shy. There would be a snowball effect leading to action on more Tennessee women’s games.

The snowball effect also would have a reciprocal benefit for the Lady Vols. Betting on their games would also increase interest in attending or watching the games.

Why betting on Lady Vols could be a win for Tennessee

As a recent American Gaming Association study suggests, sports bettors are more likely than non-bettors to be fans. The reverse is true as well, as fans are more likely than non-fans to bet on sports.

The AGA’s survey showed those differences more than double the likelihood of participation in both activities. In this context, that means people who bet on Lady Vols games are more than twice as likely to be or become Lady Vols fans.

Increased fanhood means better television ratings, higher returns on merchandise, more ticket sales, etc. As revenue increases, so do opportunities for the Lady Vols to build their program.

While Tennessee could be unique, it would still be a great thing for the women’s game if there are odds on Lady Vols games. That could lead to increased exposure for everyone involved.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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