Pirates’ success overshadowed by sport’s unpopularityPublished 12:09pm Thursday, January 30, 2014
The ECU men’s basketball team is in the midst of a five-game losing streak and remains the only team without a win in Conference USA.
This season, they’re shooting a mundane 45 percent from the field, allowing about 73 points per game on defense and are struggled to rebound the basketball. After the Pirates’ historic College Insider Tournament championship run last season, this is hardly what Coach Jeff Lebo was expecting, even with a younger roster.
Despite the men’s struggles, the team has still attracted an average of 4,470 fans to Minges Coliseum every home game.
Conversely, the women’s basketball team has managed to fly under-the-radar, sitting at an impressive 16-3 (4-2) record. Two of their three losses were by a slim margin in overtime, making the run even more noteworthy.
The Pirates are also the only team in C-USA to have two players in the top-10 in scoring (Jada Paybe and Abria Trice).
Looking at the bigger picture, this has been the best start in the program’s Division I history. The last time the Pirates won this many games this far into the season, they weren’t affiliated with the NCAA (1973-1974 season).
Yet, the women’s team draws just 789 fans per home game this season and, like most collegiate women’s basketball teams, struggles to sell tickets.
The theme is universal throughout the country, even at the University of Connecticut, where the women’s basketball team has won seven NCAA National Championships since 2000. Even sheer dominance isn’t enough to fill an arena.
It all boils down to aesthetics. There’s a certain stigma attached to women’s basketball. The consensus among fans is that just because there aren’t any dunks or widespread ejections in the women’s game, the quality of the exhibition suffers and is not worth watching live. For the ECU women, that is just simply not the case, especially during this storybook season.
Next time you are thinking about joining one of the 4,000-plus fans at a men’s basketball game, do yourself a favor and check the women’s schedule. The quality of play might surprise you.