Why Women's Basketball Deserves Fans

By Christy Flom on February 19, 2015

As a girl athlete, I had the rare and unique experience of being on a varsity basketball team in high school that had more fans at every game than our men’s team.

This phenomenon can be explained through several factors, the first being that our guy’s team sucked and usually had a losing record every season. That, plus the fact that we were state runner-ups two years in a row allowed us to say we were actually pretty good at the sport which made our friends slightly more interested in coming to our home games.

Finally, when we got the opportunity to play at the Breslin Center in East Lansing students jumped at the chance to come to our game because our team basically got them out of school that day.

Whatever way you would like to look at the situation, it is still rare to hear that a female sports team had a bigger following of fans than a men’s team. There are so many ways in which female sports have increased in national attention and equality but the number of fans and the appraisal of the athletes is still a dark area for females, especially in college.

At the University of Michigan, there are always advertisements trying to get students to attend the women’s basketball games. Tickets are even free when they play before the men’s team. At the girl’s games there are a couple noticeable differences, too.

For starters, there are almost no students in attendance. It’s usually parents and older fans at the games. Secondly, at the home games I’ve gone to, our band director is wearing very casual attire compared to her styled hair, makeup and obviously put-together outfits she wears to the men’s home games.

Lastly, the bleacher sections reserved for students at the men’s game can be rented out by groups of parents and families at the women’s games. I have seen little girls have their birthday parties at some games and at other games have seen high school teams buy these tickets.

Image by Arizona Shona via flickr.com

However, while Michigan can be an example of the more drastic differences between male and female basketball, it may not have been the best school to generalize certain aspects of the teams based on gender.

In a recent release of attendance records for female basketball games in 2014, there are five teams with an average of more than 8,000 fans per home game and countless more with well over 2,000 fans on average.

Tennessee, for example, home of the notorious head coach Pat Summitt, has roughly 11,000 fans in attendance at home games. This is about 9,000 more fans per game than Michigan gets at every home game at the Crisler Center.

So obviously girl’s basketball has some fans depending on the legacy of their teams and coaches, but let’s compare this to the average number of fans at male basketball games. According to research done by the NCAA, out of 100 schools in Division I basketball, all of them on average have more than 5,000 fans in attendance at their games with the highest attendance being just over 26,000 fans at Syracuse University.

This 15,000-fan difference does not receive a lot of attention for various reasons. Firstly, there are biological differences between men and women that in my opinion make men more interesting to watch in certain sports, basketball being one of them. The faster pace, quickness, height and physicality of men are not things that many women can achieve in team sports.

Secondly, female games are rarely televised. I looked up the number of televised games for Thursday Feb. 19 and there are eight women’s games and 25 men’s games that are being televised. This leads to the question of are girl’s games not televised because they do not have a lot of fans or are there not a lot of fans because such few games are televised? Either way, ESPN and CBS could add a couple more girls’ games on TV here and there before it is tournament time for both male and female teams.

While I enjoy and prefer to watch men’s basketball, I feel like I am biased towards my own gender for saying this. I do not know if female sports will ever garner the huge ratings that men’s college basketball earns but I do hope that more students attend a couple of their schools’ home games. They say one thing to do before you graduate college is to attend a sporting event that you may not normally attend.

Whether it is because girl’s basketball has been socially stigmatized as less entertaining or because there is less funding and less opportunities available to the athletes after college in the sports world, women’s basketball deserves a larger following of fans than they currently have now.

College students should keep in mind that female basketball teams work extremely hard for way less gain than the men’s teams. Your school may not have the same caliber of fans or players as Tennessee or the University of Connecticut associated with their girl’s teams, but they are still fun to watch with a group of friends.

Expanding this to all sports offered in college, there are many teams that receive little publicity for their hard work and students should take the time every so often to reach out to new and different teams of both genders to show their support for the players, program and school.

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