In the U.S., football and basketball are the most popular sports on college campuses based on viewership. And especially with March Madness going on this week, it is hard not to get swept up in all the excitement.
When it comes to these sports, the consistently packed stadiums and arenas promote an inherently electrifying atmosphere. Most Rutgers students can attest to the undeniable energy present at football games at SHI Stadium on Busch campus or basketball games at Jersey Mike’s Arena on Livingston campus.
This means that you do not need to memorize the rule book or know all the nuances behind the game to necessarily have a good time. But it is important for Rutgers students to remember that there are other sports on campus that are worth supporting.
Just last year, Rutgers’ women’s lacrosse team had its best season to date, with a record-high number of wins and ranked wins during its season, along with its first appearance at the Big Ten Tournament Championship game.
Similarly, the Rutgers men’s lacrosse and baseball teams had groundbreaking 2022 seasons, both breaking records for most wins in a season. For the first time ever, the lacrosse team advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four, and the baseball team played in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game.
The Rutgers crew team consistently achieves record-high national rankings, holds notoriously early morning practices and frequently competes in 8 a.m. races, all of which deserve more attention.
While it is impossible to highlight all the accomplished sports teams on campus, and each deserves recognition, how many Rutgers students knew about some of these historic accomplishments?
It is unfortunate that despite all these awards, these less popular sports will likely not gain significant attention from the student body.
This is both a cultural and cyclical problem. As America's culture tends to obsess over football and basketball, other sports are left in the dust when it comes to spectator attendance and even promotion. So, even as niche sports teams have killer seasons, people will either be unaware of their merit or they will simply not care.
At the end of the day, it comes down to viewership and revenue, which are both known trends.
For example, in 2019, the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team filed a lawsuit that demanded equal pay alongside its male counterparts. That year, the women's team was world champion yet again, but there was still a clear pay discrepancy between them and the men's team, which was performing significantly worse than them.
For example, "American women received a $110,000 bonus for winning the 2019 World Cup. The U.S. men would have received $407,000 had they won in 2018," according to an article from PBS News Hour.
Women's sports have historically struggled with viewership and coverage, and people may argue that regardless of gender discrimination, salaries and resources should be decided based on audience attendance and ticket sales. But this does not mean we should neglect sports that are not the most popular.
We should make an effort to support niche sports and women's sports teams, and Rutgers could use this as an opportunity to step in and help attendance increase at these games so that students do not solely talk about football and basketball games.
Many students can recall receiving numerous emails about football and basketball games but what about all the other sports? Rutgers needs to demonstrate support for all of its student-athletes with more advertising for all sports teams.
Many times, more niche sports teams will have to advertise their games on their own, whether that be through posting on social media or handing out flyers on campus. If Rutgers released emails for a wider variety of sports teams regularly, it could possibly attract more Rutgers fans to their events.
If more awareness is generated for other sports, the Scarlet Knight community can replicate that energy felt at football and basketball games for those teams. Giving them more attention and increasing spectator attendance could motivate the University to also provide them with more support — possibly new equipment or uniforms, more marketing and additional funding.
The Rutgers Athletics Budget is already a hot topic. While it operates on more than a $70 million dollar deficit, the salaries of adjunct professors make up less than one percent of Rutgers' budget, calling into question the priorities of the University as the possibility of a faculty strike looms overhead.
So, as the funds continue to be poured into a financially unstable department, it is hard to be confident that those millions and millions of dollars are even being distributed somewhat equitably. If a Rutgers sports team wins a championship, will it see any benefits?
Or will the football team continue to receive more funding just because it brings in the crowds, even if it is performing poorly? Take, for example, head coach Greg Schiano's $4 million annual salary, even as the football team had a losing record of 4-8 last season.
While the team is undoubtedly putting in hard work in a competitive conference, it is important that the student body gives all of our sports teams a crowd to play for.
This spring, make an effort to go to an athletic event you have never attended and encourage your friends to join you.
But we must consider much more significant questions and implications about how sports teams are funded on campus and why we give more attention to some over others.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 155th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.