The rise of women’s basketball: attendance, advertisement and psychological impact


Hundreds of kids filled the O’rena on Nov.13 to cheer on the women’s basketball team on Education Day. 

KeyVonna Taylor

Oakland women’s basketball total attendance rose by nearly a thousand people, or 12 percent, between the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.

The success appears to be continuing this year. The Golden Grizzlies played in front of the third-largest crowd in program history in a Nov. 13 home rout of University of Michigan-Dearborn. They set a school record for most points in a single game with 123, beating UM-Dearborn by 85 in front of a crowd swollen by Education Day.

“I think because we play a fun style of basketball to watch has helped, but also we have an administration and team in athletics that is committed to women’s sports,” head coach Jeff Tungate said. “They put a lot of time and effort into making sure we have good crowds at all of our games.”

The sport is headed in the right direction, according to Tungate.

“I think men’s basketball will always get increased exposure for one main reason,” he said. “Money. At the collegiate level, men’s basketball brings in much-needed funds to athletics. However, I think with the rule changes in women’s basketball, the increased popularity of the sport, and the commitment by many schools like Oakland to women’s athletics, I do think our sport will continue to grow and attract more attention.”

Getting the word out

Forward Leah Somerfield gives credit to Athletic Communications.

“Our athletic department does a great job promoting OUWBB [women’s basketball] and the social media is a big help,” she said.

It has been using Twitter, videos and Instagram to capture the public’s attention this year.

“I think we are getting more recognition due to style of play and winning record and the administration has made it a priority to promote not just women’s basketball but all sports here,” associate head coach Eric Stephan said.

Mind game

According to Instant Notes in Sport and Exercise Psychology (Corban, Gorely and Shaw; Garland Science, 2005),the most suggested explanation for the home advantage appears to be the crowd.  

“A larger crowd has a huge impact on the psychological effect of a team,” Tungate said. “Everyone likes to play in an electric environment.  I don’t think it matters whether it’s a large crowd at home, or large crowd in an opponent’s gym; players perform at a higher level when there is enthusiasm in the stands.  With that being said, good teams find a way to perform well in front of small crowds.”

Tungate said there are only 29 opportunities every season to represent Oakland and coaches and players wants a loud and enthusiastic crowd at each game. 

The effects of a big crowd are twofold, according to Stephan: At home, it can pump athletes up, giving them an extra boost of motivation. On the road, it can intimidate them.

“A small crowd at home can make an athlete feel like the ‘home fans’ don’t care about them,” he added.

Somerfield said a small home crowd is kind of embarrassing, but it’s a relief on the road.

Oakland women’s basketball plays Valparaiso at 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, Feb. 11 in the O’rena. Keep up with the gametracker.