On a cold, windy day in December, the men’s basketball team gathered in the women’s basketball locker room.
They were all dressed in black and white, and in the corner of the room was a white board.
The boards were the most popular of the seven on the roster.
They had a title: the Women’s Tournament of Champions.
“It was just a way to say, ‘I’m here,’ ” said Kameron Henson, who played at Notre Dame.
“We’re here for a reason.”
The men’s and women’s tournaments had been in the spotlight in recent years, and the Women on the Run, the women who helped raise the women in the running world to Olympic gold, returned for the second year in a row to the Rose Bowl.
The men have won five straight.
The women have lost all four.
The NCAA men’s tournament is in its fourth year, and while the NCAA tournament is a huge draw, women’s hoops is still an afterthought.
“I think the tournament is the reason women’s college basketball is so important,” said Heather Harker, a senior at Virginia Tech.
“It’s a big deal, it’s a huge event, and we’re really behind.
We’ve really got to get behind it.”
For the past four decades, there have been no women’s tournament at the Rose.
But with more than a decade of hard work, dedication and a handful of marquee teams in the national championship picture, the NCAA has turned its attention to women’s pro basketball, with a new women’s team in the making.
The Rose Bowl and Women on Run will be back in 2018.
The women will be in charge of a group of seven players, with three starters and four reserves.
They’ll be led by guard Kelsey Wittenberg, who is the first female in history to start at least 75 games for the women.
Wittenberg said it’s an honor to be considered for the tournament, and that she hopes to be the face of the women during the first round.
“You never know what could happen,” Wittenberger said.
“I’ve always been a competitor.
I want to win.
I’ve always wanted to be in the National Basketball Association.
I’m just hoping I can do that.”
The tournament will begin on March 4 and end March 15.
The field includes six teams from Division II and three from Division III, along with a handful from the NCAA men.
The men are led by Notre Dame’s Ashley Sager, who won the NCAA women’s championship in the 2015-16 season.
“The Rose is a beautiful venue and we want to showcase the women, but we want our team to be ready to compete against the best,” Wisherberger said of the tournament.
“If we’re able to win, it will give us an opportunity to compete with the best in the country and show everyone that the best is ahead of us.”
For women’s professional basketball, there is no greater opportunity than the NCAA Tournament.
But the Rose is not just a game, it is a symbol.
And with the new women in college basketball, it looks like a future.
“We have a lot of work to do, and it’s hard to know what we’re going to accomplish,” Henson said.
“That’s part of the game.
We’re in a unique position in college, and for us to be on the forefront of it is something special.”