By Ken Reed

I’m an old guy. I remember when Title IX became law in 1972, opening the door — even if it was just cracked a little at the time — to more sports opportunities for girls and women.

Valerie Bonnette, a Title IX consultant, once pointed out, “Women aren’t born less interested in sports. Society conditions them.” And for decades, American society conditioned girls and women to believe that sports were a special domain for males only.

It’s been 51 years since Title IX became law and the pursuit of equal play continues. Yes, great progress has been made, but there have been setbacks in some areas, and more progress is still needed in others.

For example, according to a USA Today study, for every dollar colleges and universities spent on travel, equipment and recruiting for men’s teams in recent years, they spent just 71 cents on women’s teams. Over a two-year period, colleges and universities spent nearly $125 million more for men than women in these budget areas for the sports of basketball, baseball/softball, golf, soccer, swimming and diving, and tennis. And that analysis doesn’t even include football.

That said, things have never been better for female sports than they are today.

As Santul Nerkar wrote in the New York Times:

“At a moment when the dominant issue in college sports is conference realignment in football, Nebraska’s Volleyball Day served as an example of a growing realization among universities that investing in women’s sports can be great for business. More and more athletic programs are seeing gains from women’s sports that challenge the outdated notion that there isn’t enough demand to make women’s programs financially sustainable.”

I’ve coached girls sports for more than 15 years and as a result have met a lot of women’s sports enthusiasts and advocates. And those I’ve talked to during the last couple weeks have all mentioned the University of Nebraska’s volleyball team breaking the record for the most-attended women’s sporting event — by drawing 92,003 fans to a game held in Nebraska’s football stadium — as a landmark event.

Nebraska volleyball is a great female sports success story. The team has led the sport in average attendance — more than 8,000 per match — for a decade. Passionate fans, including Nebraska governor Jim Pillen, worked for several years on a plan to break the attendance record. On August 30th, it all came to fruition.

On a national scale, boosters and corporations are making bigger investments in women’s sports today. According to Patrick Rishe, the director of the sports business program at Washington University in St. Louis, name, image and likeness (NIL) rules, along with shifting societal views on gender equity, are factors in the greater investment in women’s sports.

League of Fans applauds this shift in societal views on gender equity and hopes it continues at an even faster pace so great stories like Nebraska volleyball become more commonplace.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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