South Carolina draws massive crowd to celebrate women's NCAA championship

Let there be zero doubt about the viability and popularity of women's sports. Fans sent yet another strong message Wednesday, showing up in massive numbers to support the South Carolina women's basketball team after it won the NCAA tournament.

The city of Columbia, South Carolina, hosted the women's championship rally Wednesday and fans came out in droves to celebrate the victory.

The entire South Carolina team — with the exception of Destanni Henderson — took part in the rally. Head coach Dawn Staley received a key to the city, and hyped up fans by saying, "Let's run it back," per The Daily Gamecock. Henderson — who led the team with 26 points in the championship game — missed the event after getting drafted by the Indiana Fever on Monday.

South Carolina defeated UConn 64-49 in the championship game. UConn coach Geno Auriemma was a perfect 11-0 in NCAA championships heading into the contest before being taken down by Staley and her team.

Women's sports continues to draw huge numbers

South Carolina's popularity shouldn't come as a huge surprise. The championship game between South Carolina and UConn was the most-watched championship game in 18 years. It reached 4.85 million viewers and peaked at 5.91 million. That figured topped Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski's final home game, which drew 3.95 million viewers.

In addition to that, women's basketball has been a major source of NIL deals, ranking only behind college football.

The last couple years have sent multiple signs suggesting women's sports is on the rise. There's clearly money to be made in this arena.

While strides have been made in that area, the South Carolina crowd indicates there's still plenty of opportunity for growth.

Dawn Staley with South Carolina.
South Carolina fans came out to support their team. (Photo by Ethan Mito/NCAA Photos via Getty Images) (Ethan Mito via Getty Images)