Where’s the Love? Why Fordham Women’s Sports Deserve Some Respect

On Sunday night, the Rose Hill Gymnasium hosted a showdown for Atlantic 10 women’s basketball supremacy. Fordham had gotten off to its best start in 29 years and would move into a tie for first place in the conference with a win. On the other side, the #18 Dayton Flyers strolled into the Bronx with a 20-1 record and no conference losses. To ramp up the students, the athletic department offered free pizza to students who attended the contest. The game was arguably the biggest contest for Fordham basketball in this century. It lived up to the hype, as Fordham trailed by just seven points in the closing minutes against one of America’s best teams. If it were a men’s game, thousands of Fordham students and fans would have packed the gym hours in advance. However, this was a women’s contest, so only 411 people watched this whale of a game.

Forty years after Title IX, we still see blatant inequality in the coverage and interest in collegiate sports. While millions of people argue about the need for a college football playoff and fill out men’s basketball tournament brackets, very few watch the televised Women’s College World Series or NCAA women’s basketball tournament. I am not trying to vilify sports fans who do not give equal attention to women’s sports, for I have attended plenty of Fordham football and men’s basketball games but only three women’s sports contests by choice. The media can be blamed for the conundrum facing us, but that is not the best explanation. After all, the ESPN networks broadcast the Women’s College World Series, the entire NCAA women’s basketball tournament, and the championships in women’s soccer, volleyball, track & field and more. While SportsCenter and newspapers exclusively focus on male collegiate sports, school athletic departments do enough to advertise women’s sports. Rather, we need to examine why more people of both genders prefer to watch men’s college sports.

Smaller budget women’s sports are actually comparable to smaller budget men’s sports, but Title IX has failed to create the same level of widespread interest in female athletics that men’s basketball and football garner. At Fordham, women’s soccer games are attended by about as many people as men’s soccer matches, and women’s tennis matches usually attract more casual viewers than men’s tennis. Nevertheless, men’s basketball and football games are seen as socially acceptable places to express school spirit, while most other athletic contests are only attended by die-hard sports fans who cannot generate an atmosphere that benefits the home side. The cycle manifests itself because the ordinary Fordham student does not enjoy sitting alone and watching a quiet athletic contest. Unfortunately, women’s athletics are the victims of general apathy towards the lower budget sports seen at most schools. Our hardworking female athletes rarely get to compete in the electric environments that football and basketball teams enjoy, and then must hear fellow classmates complain about the lack of school spirit. As depressing as this seems, what can we do to change the lack of interest in female collegiate sports?

While I do not expect sane sports fans to fill out brackets for the NCAA women’s basketball tournament this spring, we must recognize that change comes from within. When I started my assignment as the beat writer for the women’s soccer team this fall, I expected to gain valuable writing experience and little else. After all, sports fans always assume that the quality of women’s athletics is inferior to men’s competition. By the end of the season, I gained much more respect for women’s athletics, and realized that these games can sometimes be the best to watch. Why? For one, you can always get a nice and comfortable seat. Secondly, the players and refs can actually hear your voice echo from the stands, so you can really impact the game. And finally, the relative calm allows you to focus more closely on the action. There will always be more allure in attending a popular football or men’s basketball contest, but if you ever have a few free minutes, go to a women’s sporting event. The women’s basketball and softball teams are probably the most successful teams representing Fordham, and both have the chance to reach postseason play. Going to a game is free, you can start an FU chant without being judged and you might even convince a couple other people to join in. And that’s what school spirit is all about!