UCSD’s annual Spirit Night was this past Friday, garnering a record-breaking number of attendees for the men’s game since 2008. The men’s game attracted a whopping 3,924 audience members, a slight edge over 2008’s previous record of 3,906 audience members. In comparison, the women’s game brought on a fraction of the men’s audience: 1,674 fans or 42 percent of the maximum number of fans for the entire night. That is a huge discrepancy between the two games. A 58-percent difference prompts the question: Why are there so many more fans at the men’s game than the women’s game? One important issue to address is timing.
The women’s game tipped off at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday night and the men’s game at 7:30 p.m. Yet, in a two-hour time span, 2,250 more fans were accounted for. It’s not like the women’s team’s athleticism could deter fans. In fact, the women’s team is ranked No. 21 in the NCAA and has been keeping an impressively positive win-loss ratio this season: 10–2 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association and 15–3 for all games. The No. 17 men’s team, ranking slightly higher, have the same win-loss record as the women. If high-scoring games drives excitement and attendance to games, then by all means, the women should have an equal — if not more — amount of fans on big games like Spirit Night. This past season, the top three scoring games for the women were: 93–34 against San Francisco State, 95–72 against Dominican (CA) and 90–76 against Cal Poly Pomona. The men’s top three scoring games have been: 86–74 against Colorado School of Mines, 81–62 against Cal State Monterey Bay and 79–55 against Cal State Los Angeles. A matter of talent is completely out of the question — both teams have the capacity to perform at extraordinary levels and should not affect attendance. What can affect turnout, though, is what time the women’s team plays.
There are a few scenarios that would prove a satisfactory answer for the wide gap in attendance. It’s on a Friday and students could be returning home after a long week. Classes, unfortunately, run past 5 p.m. on Fridays and some students are still in lecture. Or some may consider Spirit Night an opportunity to partake in the tailgating culture that is present on other university campuses. This, of course, excludes all those that do not want to go to the game in general.
Even if all the other factors stated above held true, UCSD Athletics must be aware of the discrepancy in attendance. Surely UCSD does not undervalue women’s athletics over men’s by having one team play before the other time and time again. Or perhaps UCSD is abiding by a long held tradition of men playing after women. Or, possibly, UCSD is being held captive by other universities to keep up this tradition. Regardless of whatever factor or factors stifle attendance for the women’s basketball game on such a unifying night, there should be some recourse to ensure that the women’s team gets just as much support from UCSD as does the men’s. That could look like the men’s game being played before the women’s game, or having Spirit Night — and other basketball games throughout the season — alternate which team plays first. On an away game, for instance, if UCSD plays a double header and the women’s team plays first, they essentially get less down time between arrival and being courtside, ready to play. There’s no reason that the men’s team should be privileged with an extra two hours of rest and relaxation after getting off the bus.
If UCSD Athletics wants to set the standard in “all aspects of competitive success, academic excellence, ethical conduct, student-athlete experience, campus pride…,” the program should look into facilitating campus pride for the student-athlete experience of the women’s basketball team on nights like Spirit Night. Flip the play times, alternate the tip-off each year — a subtle change could go a long way to show that both teams have an equal footing in representation and support on our campus and send a wider message for progress for equal representation in athletics. Do this because male dominance in athletics is so pre-Title IX.