Empty Seats, Empty Victories

By Preston Derrick

Think about an event you participated in: a choir concert, a band performance, a football game or a presentation. Imagine the event is completely full. Friends, family and supporters are pouring in like crazy. Your heart fills with joy.

But now imagine the event space is mostly empty. All the hard work you put in seems wasted.  You will be able to show off your prowess to hardly anyone.

That is what most women’s college athletic events look like. From 2012 to 2015, only 8.25 percent of audience members paid attention to women’s college basketball, according to Statista.Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 1.09.10 PMThat is the only women’s college sport mentioned in the dataset. The rest of the women’s sports are so insignificant in the interest they attract that they fall into the “other sports” category, to which only 7.75 percent of those surveyed reported paying attention.

Kristina Schulz, a sophomore midfielder for the University of Houston women’s soccer team, has been playing since she was 4.

“I think people don’t find interest in other sports such as mine because it’s not a TV revenue sport,” Schulz said. “So it’s not as promoted and out there as football or men’s basketball and some collegiate baseball teams.”

Football averaged 37.5 percent interest from 2012 to 2015, and baseball averaged 9.25 percent interest, according to Statista’s data.

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 1.09.40 PM

“I think it truly shows that the eyes are so much on men’s sports,” Schulz said.” “And women’s sports don’t necessarily get treated as big-time or put on that level as men’s sports do.”

Another Statista dataset shows the top five most popular sporting events are those put on by the National Football League, the Olympics, major league baseball, college football and the National Basketball Association. A women’s sport does not come into play until No. 17 on the list, which is women’s tennis.

Kristi Leonard, a senior forward for the Texas A&M women’s soccer team, said she believes that it is all about what sport people want to see. The majority of them just don’t want to see women’s sports.

“I do not think there is equal attention paid to women’s and men’s sports,” Leonard said. “I concede that men are better athletes than women. However, I would argue that women see the game better.”

The preference for men’s sports can be seen in the media, Leonard said, where the top sporting events covered are in men’s sports.

“Look at what is covered on ESPN,” Leonard said. “They may argue that they show those sports the majority of the broadcast because that’s what people are interested in, but to me, it seems like a two-way street. The only time a sport other than those is shown is if there is a super special play that can make the top 10 plays of the day. Meanwhile, it would be a cover story if LeBron James had a hangnail.”

Karlie Mueller, who has spent 18 years playing soccer and is an outside back defender for A&M, said she believes it is all about the fans’ perception of women’s sports.

“As far as A&M goes, we don’t have a men’s soccer team, so all the soccer fans are focused on the women’s team,” Mueller said. “But for, say, basketball, our men’s team gets a lot more fans than our women’s team. I think this is due to just the perception of women’s athletics and how it’s supposedly ‘not as exciting, not as good’ “.

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 1.10.03 PMStatista’s numbers suggest that such a perception about college sports indeed exists. In the spring of 2015, only 5.98 million U.S. adults watched a women’s college basketball event within the last 12 months, a slight decrease from the fall 2014 number of 6.15 million.

“I think it is such a low number because of the publicity,” Mueller said. “If you think about it, when you flip through sports channels they are constantly reporting on those specific sports, especially the men’s side for basketball.”

After seeing the numbers and hearing personal testimonies, now how does it feel to imagine performing for virtually no one?


About JOUR 4350

JOUR 4350 is the multiplatform news delivery class, which is the capstone class for journalism majors within the College of Media & Communication.

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