Joe’s Corner: Where’s Northwestern’s 6th Man?

As part of a new column, Joe’s Corner, WNUR’s Joe Misulonas looks at all things Northwestern basketball.   This week Joe discusses the sore lack of attendance consistently seen at women’s games.

Joe’s Corner: Where’s Northwestern’s 6th Man?

Last night, the women’s basketball team lost to the 25th ranked Michigan Wolverines at home, 67-53. If there is any stat that shows why the Wildcats lost yesterday, it is this one: 582. That is the attendance of last night’s game. To put that in perspective, on Thursday, November 15th, the Northwestern Men’s team hosted Mississippi Valley State at Welsh-Ryan, in front of 5004 spectators.

Let me put it another way. Last night, in a Big Ten conference basketball game against a ranked opponent, the Northwestern Women’s team garnered one-tenth the audience that the Men’s team got in a non-conference home game in November against a lackluster opponent.

Two weeks before last night’s game, the women’s team was facing off against a then-ranked no. 9 Penn State Lady Lions team on the road. With less than five minutes left in the game, Northwestern was winning despite not having Kendall Hackney and Dannielle Diamant for significant portions of the second half due to foul trouble. As I was engineering this game for WNUR, I logged into Twitter to see what my fellow Northwestern students were talking about during this possible upset of a top-ten team.

Instead, I saw several tweets about Chier Ajou hitting a three-pointer against the no. 2 ranked Michigan Wolverines. This would’ve been noteworthy, except Northwestern was losing by nearly three decades with a couple of minutes left to play.
Northwestern fans would rather watch the men’s team get slaughtered by a top ten team than watch/listen to the women’s team nearly upset one.

I find this shameful. It is reprehensible how little support the women’s basketball team gets from the Northwestern fans and student body.

I can’t log into Facebook without getting invited to some promotion being held for a men’s game. “Free t-shirts from (insert generic buffalo wings restaurant)!” “Hey everyone! We’re going to do that thing where we all wear the same color to intimidate the opponents!” (By the way, for a Blackout/Whiteout to truly occur, the entire stadium has to be wearing the same color. Not just two sections) But there is rarely the same type of promotion and enthusiasm for women’s home games.

This is not an issue isolated to Northwestern athletics. Nearly every Division I school sees widely disproportionate attendance at women’s sporting events compared to men’s sporting events. According to the NCAA, last year the average Division I women’s basketball game averaged 1,634 fans, while the average men’s game averaged 5,190.

I don’t want to use the rest of this space to speculate why that statistic is true (Hint: It rhymes with Rexism). However, there is no good reason why Northwestern fans should not be attending women’s games in the same number as men’s games.

First, the men’s team is not a superior team. In fact, until the men’s victory of Illinois last night, the women’s team looked like the better team. Yes, they have lost 7 of their last 9 games. Yet two of those losses came against top-ten teams, one of whom they nearly beat on the road and the other they only lost to by six at home (although, as I’ve shown, the women’s team playing at home is like most teams playing at a neutral site).

Second, the women’s games are possibly more exciting than men’s games. Sure you’re likely to see dunks in the men’s game, but the vast majority of those will be by the opposing team (see the half dozen alley oops Iowa ran against Northwestern last Sunday). The women’s team runs a far more up-tempo offense than the men’s Princeton offense. If the women’s offense is a Led Zeppelin song, then the men’s offense is a Dean Martin Christmas cover (ask your grandparents to explain that analogy to you). The women’s team is similar to the Steve Nash Phoenix Suns offense, which is appropriate given that Northwestern also has a Canadian running the point.

Finally, they’re a Northwestern team. They’re Wildcats, and we should support them. I’m not saying we should support the men’s team less and the women’s team more. Quite the opposite. I’m saying we should support both of them more. I want to go to a Women’s basketball game and for once see a full student section, and someone handing out free t-shirts from some Evanston restaurant that preys on the Northwestern student body. We should want all of our teams to succeed, and the only way to do that is
by going out and attending their games.

It’s time we give this Northwestern women’s team a real homecourt advantage!


  • It’s not sexism. The quality of women’s basketball is just low, and it’s not entertaining to watch. Of course people will show up to see a Michigan team that is comprised of future NBA players even if it means seeing NU get pummeled. Women’s basketball is just nowhere near as good quality-wise as men’s ball is. And it’s not like that across the board; women’s tennis and volleyball, for example, are very respected professionally, because they offer a product that is entertaining, competitive, and of high quality.

    We should obviously support our athletes but I don’t think it should come as a surprise that people don’t want to watch a game that quite frankly resembles that of an upper tier SPAC pickup game

  • This article has been written at least once every year, and I promise you, from experience, it won’t change anything. The reason is very, very simple. Customers (whether students or the general public) are just not interested in the product (NU women’s basketball games). It’s less about wins and losses as it is about excitement and investment in the team. I respect your opinion that the women’s game is more exciting than the men’s game, but as you know, you’re in a very small minority. Fortunately, it’s those like-minded people that you can share good times with when you go to the games, so enjoy!

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