Op-ed: Women’s basketball is succeeding without support
Fans spend more money to watch the men’s team lose than they play to watch the women’s team win
American University women’s basketball team just competed in the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in school history. They lost 71-60 to UCLA in the first round. AU was awarded a 14 seed after capturing the program’s second Patriot League Championship.
The Eagles had a tremendous season, led by senior guard and Patriot League Player of the Year Emily Kinneston. AU finished 26-6, going 16-2 in league play. They went undefeated at home for the first time since the 1970s.
While the team has had arguably its best season in decades, they still got little recognition from the AU community. An article published by The Eagle last month showed that the women’s home games had an average attendance of 387 fans in the 2017-2018 season. That’s a tad over half the average attendance of the men’s team. Despite the men’s team having one of their worst seasons in recent memory, they enjoyed an average of 761 fans per game.
The men’s team finished the season 6-24. They finished last in the Patriot League.
According to the Athletic Department’s website, the Patriot League championship game had an attendance of 1,001 people, the team’s largest crowd by a significant margin all season. Prior to the game, the women’s team’s largest crowd for a home game this season was on Feb. 3, when they faced off against Army West Point. 665 people were there.
Until the Patriot League championship game, men’s basketball’s average attendance was larger than the women’s team most-attended game all season.
Not only are men’s games more widely attended, but, according to The Eagle, they are also more expensive individually and for season tickets. Season tickets to the women’s team is a flat fee of $80 and fans don’t purchase specific seats. Instead, seats in the stands are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Conversely, season tickets for the men’s team vary in price and could cost anywhere from $48 to $198 depending on the specific seat. Any season ticket holder for the men’s team is also granted access to all women’s games for no additional charge. It’s interesting that fans were willing to spend more money to watch the men’s team lose than they were to spend less to watch the women’s team win.
But the question is “why?”
It’s no secret that men’s college basketball is more popular and brings in more revenue than women’s basketball. It’s not the fault of the women’s team or even of the men’s, but the women’s game has not been given the same platform and thus has suffered. According to an NCAA revenue and expense report published in 2016, the median total revenue of women’s basketball programs at schools who don’t have a football was $1,117,000 in 2015. Those same schools’ total expense for women’s basketball in 2015 was $1,404,000. Conversely, the men’s basketball programs under the same requirements had a median total revenue of $1,835,000 and median total expenses of $2,144,000.
While those numbers are not significant, the largest total revenue generated by a women’s basketball program at at school without a football team was $4,039,000; whereas, the comparable school for men’s basketball is almost five times that amount at $19,500,000.
At AU, the men’s basketball team had just under $2 million in expenses from May 1, 2016 to April 30, 2017, whereas the women’s team spent about $1.65 million in the same period, according to the Department of Education. While it’s unknown whether or not the teams got the same budget, that is a substantial difference in money spent.
AU’s decision to charge fans different prices for attending a men’s or women’s game portrays a clear devaluation of women’s games. Instead of charging and expecting less, they should be promoting and encouraging everyone come to support those teams.
Mike Brest is a senior in the School of Communication. He is an outside contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Eagle and its staff.