How can we increase the visibility of women’s sports? 

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It was a classic doubleheader basketball game in Memorial Hall and the student section was packed with cheering fans for the Muhlenberg men’s basketball team. When the final buzzer went off and the teams headed to their designated locker rooms, the bleachers began to empty as the women’s basketball team took the court. With their warm-up music playing and lay-up lines being executed, only a few stragglers and some parents remained. “It’s like evacuate the place,” said Caroline Horst ‘24 to her teammates. 

“It was upsetting to see because in close and important games, the fans bring the energy and it can create a home-court advantage against the other team,” explained Horst. However, the small crowds don’t impact the team’s motivation to play. “Unfortunately, I believe one reason why it doesn’t lead to a lack of motivation is because we’ve grown accustomed to similar situations from past seasons; so, it’s not unexpected or unusual,” said Horst. 

Title IX was created in 1972 to prevent sex-based discrimination, and to provide equal opportunities in education for both males and females. But there is still work that needs to be done. Sports was added to Title IX in 1975, requiring all types of educational institutions to support male and female athletes equally. There is a lot that goes into this, including ensuring equal access to sports facilities, training sessions or equipment and also monitoring participation, coaching salaries, revenues and expenses. 

Despite Title IX, there is a large divide between men’s and women’s college basketball, particularly when it comes to viewership. The men’s March Madness championship game in 2023 had 14.7 million viewers, a record low, while the women had 9.92 million, but peaked at 12.6 million. This was a record for the women, which highlights the hope for the future of their game. Part of this had to do with stars such as Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese, players who made a large impact on the game. 

But here at Muhlenberg, men’s basketball draws significantly bigger audiences. Erslin Pierre ‘24 considers himself an avid sports fan, but has a preference for basketball, and explained that Muhlenberg men’s basketball is “more free-flowing and less reliant on motion offense makes it more engaging, especially when the best offensive players get the ball more during possessions.” He believes that there is a difference in athleticism and since it is very rare to see a woman dunk, the men’s games are more engaging. 

Emily Vaughan ‘25 also sees a difference between men’s and women’s basketball. “Men’s games are aired more on television making it more convenient to watch. Overall, men’s sports tend to be faster and played at a much higher level than women’s. I have found men’s basketball, the sport I watch most, to be more competitive, quicker and more engaging to the audience,” said Vaughan. 

Despite all of this, women’s basketball is taking a large turn in a positive direction and has grown exponentially, with the ‘Clark effect’ as a catalyst for that turn. On March 3, 2024, Clark scored 35 points, reaching a career total of 3,685, against Ohio State, surpassing Pete Maravich’s record of most career points in NCAA history since 1970. Caitlin Clark has made history over her four years at the University of Iowa, and continued to do so in her March Madness run, but finally fell to South Carolina in the championship game. She scored 483 points in this year’s March Madness run, which was the most ever, breaking more records.

In the 2023-24 regular season, viewership of women’s basketball has increased significantly. Clark, along with other college players like Reese, Paige Bueckers, Cameron Brink and Kamilla Cardoso have paved the way for a new generation of girls in a world dominated by men’s sports

“Guys will say the game is not as fun to watch, but Caitlin Clark is fun to watch,” said Shay Ijiwoye, one of Arizona’s top high school players and a Stanford commit, to AP News. “I think she’s inspiring a lot of young kids my age, older, younger, that you can have that confidence and do it just as well as any guy could.” 

The NCAA women’s championship made history by drawing more viewership than the men’s for the first time. But it took superstars breaking records to shift the focus toward women’s sports. 

Vaughan sees this too but still understands the domination of men’s basketball that may never truly go away. “Women’s basketball teams such as Iowa with Caitlin Clark, South Carolina and UConn have been getting more love on social media, television and attendance at the game. However, men’s basketball consistently sells out arenas despite who is playing,” commented Vaughan. 

“I feel like more people should give women’s basketball a chance, especially in marquee matches and key games as the intensity and competitiveness gets stronger,” said Pierre. 

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