Real fans or male fans-only? – Cache Valley Daily

USU vs Colorado St women’s basketball, 01/19/22. Photo by Rick Parker

To those who do support women’s sports, I need to say before I begin: we know who you are, we appreciate you and we do not take for granted the love you have given us. Your support means the world to us. I have formed friendships with consistent fans I hope last a lifetime. When I say this, I am not talking about you.

Taylor Franson, 42, is defended during a USU vs New Mexico women’s basketball game on 01/06/22. Photo by Rick Parker.

I am talking to the dad who has young daughters and has never brought them to see a women’s sporting event. I am talking to the old couple who has lived in Logan for 30+ years and has only ever watched men’s basketball and football. I’m talking to the student who claims to be USU’s biggest sports fan, but hasn’t watched a single women’s basketball, softball or volleyball game, soccer or tennis match, gymnastics meet or any of the various women’s clubs at USU.

I am talking to fans who think they are real fans because they cheer for the men’s teams and have never considered the female athletes who train just as hard, win just as much and play for this school with just as much passion. You are not a real fan.

If you don’t support the female athletes of Utah State University, you are missing more than half of the incredible achievements and athletic endeavors of USU athletes.

You missed watching the volleyball team go from a no win season to Mountain West regular season champs in just two years.

You missed watching women’s basketball win a game with only five players after the entire bench got ejected at halftime. You missed watching them beat the reigning Mountain West Champs at home. You know Sam Merrill and Neemias Queta, incredible basketball players now representing Aggie nation professionally, but do you know Hailey Bassett, Marlene Aniambossu or Rachel Brewster who did the same?

Ashley Cardozo and USU women’s soccer. Photo by Tina Lerohl

You missed softball’s Kennedy Hira hit a walk off grand slam against the conference champs, Fresno.

You missed watching the tennis team come back from being down 0-3 to Colorado State, winning four straight matches to win 4-3.

You missed watching soccer beat BYU and have a record season with a first year head coach. You missed watching Ashley Cardozo become a literal legend and you don’t get to celebrate her signing to a professional team in France.

You missed gymnastics break record after record in their 2022 season behind incredible performances from Sofi Sullivan, ranked first in the conference on beam and Rebecca Wells, ranked second in the All Around category.

Utah State’s Taylor Franson, 42, is defended during a Women’s Basketball game vs Fresno St 03/02/22. Photo by Rick Parker.

I say all this, because I spent the last five years as a female athlete at USU. I’ve seen it first-hand. And I can confidently say more community members who currently live in Logan watched my father, Eric Franson, play basketball in the 90’s than have watched me play in the last five years. Most students don’t even know who I am.

Please don’t get me wrong when I say this because I say it as someone who is a fourth generation Aggie. I love this school more than anything and was born bleeding Aggie blue. If I can help it, my kids will be fifth generation Aggies. This comes from a place of knowing what Aggie nation is capable of, a place of love for the school I dreamed about playing for my entire life.

I am eternally grateful for the five years I had as an Aggie. The opportunity to grow as an athlete and a person is something that will stay with me as I go out into the world. I. Love. This. School.

It’s also important to acknowledge this is common at most schools, high school and college. The support for female athletes just isn’t there yet nationwide. Unless it’s the top women’s programs, the stands are usually empty. But why do the Aggies need to be like everyone else? Why don’t we do better?

We need to do better and be better for our female athletes. They deserve just as much support and respect. And right now they aren’t getting it.

I’m not the only female athlete who thinks this.

“People are so easy to hate on women’s sports saying they are boring,” said Mazie McFarlane, a USU softball player. “Yet, have never sat down and watched.”

McFarlane is in her third year at USU and has noticed the lack of support during the entire duration.

“Going to men’s basketball or football games is crazy to me because I see all these people there,” McFarlane said. “I wonder, where are they when any women’s sport plays?

In January of 2022, the women’s and men’s basketball team played a double header, meaning both teams played in the Spectrum on the same night. The women’s team watched as the Spectrum, full of fans totaling more than 9,000 emptied to less than 50 after the men’s game ended, despite tickets purchased that evening including both games.

Emmie Harris and Justin Bean came to USU at the same time. Both have broken records, lead their team to victory, and represented Utah State in a way that can make any Aggie proud. Most Aggies though, have only seen one in action.

“As we travel to other places to play, we see how much other women’s teams are supported in their communities,” Harris said. “We know it is possible to get that type of support here in Logan.”

The average attendance at men’s basketball games in 2022 is between 7,892. The women’s average is 634.

“We have some very dedicated fans that are very supportive and come to every game,” Harris said, “but that number is very small compared to the men’s team.”

The women’s basketball program has implemented several tactics to garner greater support from both the community and students. Harris says they haven’t changed anything.

These tactics apply to other female sporting teams and include $5,000 to the person who comes to the most women’s basketball games, or free food and t-shirts to other events.

“It’s upsetting that we as female athletes are trying so hard with incentives just to get a decent sized group through the door,” said Sidnee Lavatai, a USU women’s tennis player.

Lavatai does think that those who support female athletes are consistent and bring great energy. She suggested that other athletes need to support each other more to help build community support.

USU women’s volleyball. Photo by Clint Allen

Corrine Larsen, who played volleyball for four years at USU, said the difference is obvious.

“There’s a clear outnumbering of male athletes that get attention,” Larsen said. “We just feel like the side additions that are there just to fulfill Title IX requirements.”

Title IX being the legislation that requires equal access to education for male and female students. In practice, it is used to ensure equal amounts of scholarships for male and female athletes.

It should be a goal for more Aggie fans to expand their range of support towards the female teams,” Larsen said. “Once you get to know the players and their game, so many good things follow.”

Larsen said she doesn’t think the community alone is to blame for the lack of support. She says it stems from lack of representation on social media, favoritism from the university itself, and administration and donors only taking the time to get to know the “golden boy” male athletes.

She also wanted to highlight those people who do show consistent support for female athletes.

“There were some community members who were avid fans and supporters of us and it made all the difference,” Larsen said. “I encourage everyone to go out and build connections with all the teams.”

USU gymnastics. Photo by Robert K. Scott

If you read this and took away anything other than how much I love this school, you’re missing the point. It is because I love USU that I want to demand better of it. It is because I love the people here that I know they are capable of more.

It is because I loved being an athlete here and know how much the other female athletes love it here that I want more people to see what we are capable of; how hard we work and how much we care about this school.

The grueling hours spent on the court or field don’t change because of gender. The physical demands, the emotional toll, the passion, the dedication. None of it differs. The A doesn’t light a different shade of blue when a men’s team wins verses when a women’s team does. So why does our support change?

All I’m asking is this: if you’ve never been before, just try going once. Just once.

Taylor Franson has been recognized as an Academic All-Mountain West basketball player and Mountain West Scholar Athlete multiple times and recently completed her senior year of eligibility on the USU women’s basketball team.

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