Battle of the Sexes: College Edition

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When Title IX was introduced in 1972, the face of college sports changed. A surge of women’s teams and participation in intercollegiate sports flourished throughout the country. Women’s sports such as basketball, soccer, and field hockey drew female athletes together. Title IX was hailed a social revolution of female empowerment- empowerment that resonates today.

 

Amidst its glow of feminism, however, lies a bitter truth: women’s college sports are not as profitable as men’s. Volleyball, for example, is one of the more popular women’s sports. Like true Spartans, the fans are rowdy and spirited, but they number about the same a high school volleyball game. Men’s basketball fans are paying up to $400 a seat, while that same seat can be occupied for $13 at a women’s game. When it comes to making money, the two just don’t compare. Most women don’t support women’s sports. When was the last time you heard of “girl’s night” at the MSU women’s rowing ragada? Whether to be able to hang with the guys, or to see sweaty man muscles at work, most women prefer watching men’s sports. A defined audience is missing for women’s sports, and it is reflected in ticket sales.

 

Women’s basketball has managed to find a niche audience and become the most successful of the women’s programs. Even with that relative success, they have lost millions. While not drawing a huge student section, families and young girls’ sports teams jump and scream for joy as the Lady Spartans work their magic. It’s a popular event for families because good seats can be purchased for an affordable price. The publicity MSU gains from women’s basketball makes up for mediocre ticket sales in the opinion of the administration. Not all women’s sports, however, have enjoyed this success.

 

With looming cuts in MSU athletics, the chance that men’s sports will be cut while struggling women’s sports are sustained is all of the sudden very real.

 

This leads me to a second bitter, yet obvious truth: everything comes down to money. If MSU is going to operate like a business, it needs to stick to simple business practices. Most MSU finance professors would disagree with choosing deficit where there can be profit; and most people would agree that it is a time to save every penny possible.  Equal rights also means equal accountability and if men’s sports are on the chopping block for not being economically viable then certainly women’s (protected by title nine) must also be in a “real and equal” world.

 

Thirty-seven years ago, women fought to gain the same opportunities in sports as men. In time, mainstream views changed. Today it is not longer a question of if women can play sports, but if those sports are producing the profit that the university relies on.

 

It is time that women’s athletics takes the empowerment that was given to them and proves their significance. Whether marketing differently, pursuing more programs that get people to games, or reaching out to their community, women’s athletics needs to find its niche with fans or be subject to cuts. A third bitter truth: today’s economy does not have room for any program, male or female, that does not rise up to a financial challenge.

 

 

 

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