David and Goliath: when sports get left behind

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At the end of the NCAA basketball season, some Chapel Hill residents feel like there aren’t any sports left to watch. College football isn’t until August, and the college basketball season is on its break. So, until the fall, it seems professional sports and post-season reviews are the only sources of sports entertainment. But this isn’t actually the case.

At UNC, there are 28 women’s and men’s Division I varsity sports, which means there are sports going on all season long that receive little attention. Although the school year is over, the UNC baseball, softball, lacrosse, tennis and track and field teams are still competing. Despite this, many UNC fans are already looking ahead to future basketball and football seasons.

While UNC basketball’s six national championship wins are still an accomplishment, the university’s women’s soccer team holds 22 championships; the team won titles every year but two from 1982 to 2000. The other teams, regardless of their success, usually have low attendance and little recognition when compared to the basketball teams.

Carrboro senior Miah Araba attributes the difference to the trends in U.S. history over a long period of time. “It just goes back to the development of sports in general in the United States. American football and basketball have predominantly been key sports,” said Araba, adding, “[At UNC,] women’s soccer is definitely a dynasty. It just goes back to the fact that women’s soccer just isn’t as well known as basketball and football.”

The players of other sports also don’t get celebrity status. While each athlete commits to a D1 school for a varsity sport, usually only the basketball and football players get national media attention.

When UNC baseball won the ACC Championship, many news outlets chose to write about it, but for every baseball article, there are probably ten concerning UNC basketball draft picks, coaching changes, recruits, retiring jerseys and every single aspect of the sport.

In addition to the attention that football and basketball garner, they also bring in more revenue. In 2015, Forbes reported that the average price for the year’s UNC-Duke basketball game was $1,930. That’s nearly two thousand dollars for a single basketball game. In contrast, you can attend this season’s UNC-Duke rivalry baseball games (May 18-20) for as low as $13.50, less than the price of a Silverspot movie.

While the divide isn’t quite as clear in high school, similar trends still appear. At Carrboro, most of the attention goes to the football team. The games are more expensive, there’s a theme for each game and there’s an entire C-Town section. Almost every Friday night the bleachers are full and the crowds cheer.

Most other sports at Carrboro gain attention from only the most devoted fans, and then parents and siblings. Only when a team makes it to the playoffs does it garner the attention that the football team has all season long.

This trend extends beyond North Carolina. Similar to UNC, the UCLA basketball program holds an impressive 11 national championship wins, including a reign in the 1960s and 1970s. But UCLA’s Men’s Tennis and Volleyball have 16 and 19 respectively, and Softball also has 11.

It’s difficult to determine why this happens. It might be because of the money devoted to each team and how it’s spent. Some people believe that this change is a result of the media coverage that each team gets. The problem still persists today and while there have been many proposed solutions, there will be many more until the problem is resolved.

Photo courtesy unc.edu