WEST LAFAYETTE – After consecutive appearances in the NCAA’s Elite Eight, Coach Dave Shondell’s program is one of the most recognized in women’s college volleyball.
But even as the sport’s popularity continues to rise, getting matches broadcast on major networks to attract a wider fan base has been a challenge.
Shondell and a group of fellow trainers across the country are asking why.
“We’re trying to come up with ideas to see how to improve our game, improve our sport,” said Shondell, who is entering his 20th season as Purdue’s head coach. “One of the things I told them, look where we’ve come in the last 15 years. We’ve improved, but it’s not because of ESPN or because of the big networks.”
Because of the Boilermakers’ post-season success combined with being a member of the Big Ten, which has a network that uses ample airtime showing volleyball matches and highlighting the league’s best teams and players, Purdue has found its way onto many screens. TV.
Purdue played eight games on the Big Ten Network and one on ESPN2 last season, channels that are broadcast nationally through many satellite and cable providers. Fifteen regular season matches were on Big Ten Plus, the network’s subscription-based channel.
Most are not in a similar situation.
For many college volleyball programs, coverage is rare or non-existent, even at power conferences.
That’s why Shondell and a group of 15-20 of the country’s top coaches have teamed up, trying to leverage whatever platform they have.
They witnessed women’s basketball coaches and athletes, through the power of social media, fight for gender equality during the 2021 NCAA tournament. The men’s and women’s tournaments were played in a bubble and it was clear that men and women were very different. in the form of luxuries offered.
Volleyball’s popularity on social media has exploded in recent years, and for many college programs, it’s the primary way to keep fans informed about their show.
Purdue, for example, has over 30,000 followers on Twitter, nearly 22,000 followers on Facebook and 41,000 followers on Instagram. These followers only follow men’s basketball and football among Purdue athletics social media accounts.
Women’s volleyball coaches are using social media to get the message across. Several have posted a chart comparing coverage of women’s basketball versus volleyball and how this is presented from a television perspective.
Women’s basketball had all 67 games of the NCAA tournament televised for the 2022 tournament. The NCAA Division I volleyball tournament in December had 12.
Wisconsin volleyball coach Kelly Sheffield noted via Twitter that it’s not a battle of volleyball versus women’s basketball. Shondell noted the same in two separate interviews this month.
Volleyball coaches are in favor of having all 67 women’s basketball games broadcast, but wonder why there is so much discrepancy between the two sports.
Sheffield’s Badgers defeated Nebraska in the national championship on December 18, a five-set match that aired on ESPN2 and drew nearly 1.2 million viewers, according to ESPN PR, a 71% increase in compared to the previous year’s title fight between Kentucky and Texas. and 119% up from the 2019 final between Stanford and Wisconsin.
Seeking why all of the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament were aired only through streaming services seems to have fallen on deaf ears and now coaches are backing off.
“If we won’t be champions of our own sport, who will,” Sheffield said in a Zoom call posted by VolleyballMag.com.
The simple answer, and the one most often heard when discussing why volleyball doesn’t gain more national visibility, is football.
Women’s volleyball is a fall sport and runs concurrently with college football and the NFL, which far surpass the sport in terms of popularity and ratings. College football games compete with the women’s volleyball tournament for airtime.
Volleyball coaches are spitting out ideas of how both can benefit without taking away from each other.
“We are willing to adjust our season. We are playing on different nights,” Creighton volleyball coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said via Zoom posted by VolleyballMag.com. “We’re trying to do what we can. And honestly, it was a small committee. That’s why we’re trying to nationalize it.”
The inquiries do not stop there.
Questions about gambling in college volleyball were posed and how this might increase popularity and exposure.
There are many more questions.
New ones pop up weekly. At the moment, many of them are unanswered because volleyball was not presented on equal terms.
“We’re lucky in our society, women are starting to take on jobs and responsibilities. There are women out there who have a lot of money,” Shondell said. “You saw the Buick announcement that 40% of the athletes are women and only 10% were on TV. I think there are women out there who are going to start demanding that there be more women on these broadcasts.
“There are two things I think they look at. No. 1, what else do they have to put in there? Is Indiana State playing Ball State in basketball going to attract more than Purdue (volleyball) playing Illinois State in an NCAA tournament? I know the answer to that. It could very well be the game of basketball. Right now we’re not part of this big package.”
Sam King covers sports for the Journal & Courier. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @samueltking.