“The status quo:” Temple Women’s Basketball should be promoted the same as men’s

The Temple News reviewed recent team and Temple Athletics’ social media posts and found discrepancies in how Temple Men’s and Women’s basketball is promoted to fans.

Guard Tiarra East hits a layup against South Florida as Temple Women’s Basketball beat the Bulls to spark a five-game winning streak. | LILLIAN PRIETO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

For Temple Basketball, it’s a tale of two teams on North Broad Street.

Women’s Basketball has been on a major upswing since conference play started at the end of December. Sitting at 17-10 as the regular season finale nears, the Owls are first in the American Athletic Conference, a deep contrast to last year’s team that finished 11-18 and barely had enough players to field a rotation. 

As the women’s team improves, the men’s team is looking bleak. The men won their first game in more than a month on Feb. 18 after losing 10 in a row, their worst streak since the 1975-76 season. Their losses have been close, providing some hope for next year, but the men’s team is 10-17 and 3-11 in conference play, sitting near the bottom of the AAC.

Despite obvious differences in team performance, promotional events and other activities favor Men’s Basketball in contrast to Women’s Basketball, both in quality and number, according to The Temple News’ review of the teams’ and Temple Athletics’ official social media pages.

Temple’s marketing team is giving Women’s Basketball its largest promotional event of the season for their penultimate home game on Feb. 28, featuring multiple high-dollar giveaways and dollar hotdogs. However, these efforts should have started earlier in the season and serve as an example for years of women’s sports promotions to come.

Some promotions are decided before the season starts, but others are decided throughout the year. Temple Athletics should have added more promotions early on to encourage fans’ excitement and engagement for the women’s team, just as they do for the men’s. 

The men’s team has had roughly 19 total promotional activities, posts, giveaways, sponsorships or special visitors from the start of the season to Feb. 18, while the women’s team has had approximately nine, according to their social media posts. 

The attention given to the Feb. 28 game should have been applied all season. Even so, Temple Athletics hasn’t taken the victory lap they would if the men’s team was at the top of their conference. The women’s team hasn’t reached the top spot in the AAC this late in the season since the 2011-12 season, when they were in the Atlantic-10.

“That would be the kind of thing that if the men’s team was number one in the conference, they would be on bullhorns or something making that announcement,” said Karen Turner, a journalism professor emerita who is a member of the Temple Owl Club, the university’s primary avenue for fundraising.

Both Men’s and Women’s Basketball have made a point to promote their teams together despite having separate promotions budgets. They’ve collaborated on various occasions including holiday discount promotions, ticket deals during Black Friday and Cyber Monday and handing out flyers around campus to advertise the start of the season. 

“No matter what team, they’re important to us, and they deserve the fan support from general fans, students, alumni, whoever it may be,” said Scott Walcoff, who handles Temple Athletics’ external operations. “We’re not going to treat a Women’s Basketball game any different than a Men’s Basketball game. We run the games the exact same way. We try to sell the games the exact same way. We do giveaways for both of those teams, so we treat it as equally as we possibly can.”

Promotions for the men’s team have included two Dollar Dog Nights, a White-Out event and giveaways for a ticket to an Eagles game and a courtside seat at the Big 5 Classic. The Army ROTC and Raising Cane’s have presented men’s games and $10,000 half court shots, respectively. 

“From a ‘white out’ perspective, we try to pick what we think will be the ‘biggest’ game of the season,” Walcoff said. “For Men’s Basketball, Memphis was obviously coming into the season highly regarded. We use ‘Dollar Dog Night’ when we might need a little bit of an attendance push, whether from a student or general fan perspective.”

They also had a “Welcome to Fishtown” event — a play on head coach Adam Fisher’s last name — during a Jan. 24 home game amid the start of the team’s recent losing streak. The event featured “fish-themed promotions,” and the first 1,000 students received a Temple Basketball bucket hat. Members of the Fishtown District also visited the team at practice.

The event was not conceived during Athletics’ annual marketing plan, which typically lays out the marketing and promotions strategy for the following year. Walcoff and his team brainstormed the idea after Temple’s Diamond Band continued to chant, “Fish!” at the first-year head coach.

“We just put our heads together and said, ‘We should do some sort of a fish-theme game,’” Walcoff said. “We looked at the schedule and thought the USF game after break made the most sense to give us enough time to plan for it. We came up with the whole ‘Welcome to Fishtown’ theme, ran it by coach Fisher, and he was like, ‘Sure, let’s try it.’”

During the first game of the Women’s Basketball season, students had a chance to win Nike Panda Dunks. The rest of their giveaways are largely defined by t-shirts. The team gave away Philly-themed merchandise to the first 250 fans during their Nov. 22 game and free shirts to the first 500 fans at their Jan. 21 Autism Awareness game. 

Women’s Basketball also promoted opportunities for post-game parent-child layups and autograph sessions in addition to the team’s visit to the local Tanner Duckrey School to promote their Dec. 21 School Day game. 

If Temple Athletics prepared more high-quality promotional events ahead of and throughout the season, the activities could help bolster attendance numbers for Women’s Basketball games.

Underwhelming attendance at Temple sporting events has been a long-standing issue for Temple Athletics as a whole, but the number of spectators at this season’s women’s games simply doesn’t match a team that has its best chance at an AAC title since joining the conference in 2014. 

As of Feb. 22, Women’s Basketball averages just less than 1,500 home fans per home game according to Temple Athletics’ statistics. Men’s Basketball averages more than double that figure, bringing in almost 3,500 fans per home game.

Athletic Director Arthur Johnson believes the market for things like ticket sales dictates the value of the events. Even if the women’s team is competing at a high level, the market for women’s basketball would still be smaller than the men’s market. 

“It’s what the market says,” Johnson told The Temple News in October 2023. “Until you are having the same kind of success that they’re having in a South Carolina or a UConn, but even then, those tickets probably won’t be the same.”

Promotional disparities between Men’s and Women’s Basketball isn’t just a Temple issue. Women’s sports have long been placed on the backburner, and it’s a multilayered, intersectional problem that dates as far back as ancient times, where women weren’t even allowed to attend the Olympic games, said Ashley Gardner, a sports and recreation management professor. 

Circumstances have improved over time, but even after Title IX was established in 1972, women in sports have still felt marginalized and subjected to stereotypes, misogyny and misogynoir, said Gardner, whose research class routinely examines the differences in promotions of Temple’s men’s and women’s sports.

“Sexism by and large is the institutional issue because let’s say for example, you go on Instagram right now look at ESPN, when they post anything about women’s sports, they’re getting bashed in the comments, right?” Gardner said. “And that’s because of the institutional nature of sexism in sports. Sexism in sports did not start today, it did not start 10 years ago, it started in the ancient sport days, 7 something B.C.”

Gardner believes Temple is continuing to perpetuate the “status quo” in women’s sports through the discrepancies in promotions.

“It kind of just made sense,” Gardner said of the discrepancies in promotions between Temple Men’s and Women’s Basketball. “That’s what we see not just at Temple, not just in college sports, but in women’s sports all across the board. We see that large discrepancy and so wasn’t necessarily shocking. Saddening, of course, but not necessarily shocking.”

Improvements can be made if Temple is more intentional about who and what they’re promoting and if they acknowledge and are accountable for their actions moving forward, Gardner said. 

Temple Athletics hosted “Diamond Dreams: Investing in Women’s Sports at Temple” on Feb. 10, preceding Women’s Basketball’s game against USF. The event was aimed at fundraising and increasing awareness of women’s sports at Temple. The athletic department should continue to host these types of events that emphasize women’s athletics, while also giving the necessary recognition to high-performing women’s teams. 

“I think the issue with not just Temple Athletics, but athletics across the board, is that we aren’t intentional enough,” Gardner said. “When we are trying to redress something, when we are trying to move toward equity — it’s not even about equality anymore — when we’re trying to move toward equity, we have to be intentional. And if you’re not intentional, there’s going to be some discrepancies there.”

Temple Athletics is already very intentional with which games get declared “white outs” or which games feature $1 hotdogs by looking closely at future opponents and ticket sales. Adding more women’s games to that slate in future seasons should not be challenging.

Temple Women’s Basketball is on the verge of making history. Head coach Diane Richardson made a statement by moving her team to The Liacouras Center, and her gamble was a testament to the confidence she instills in her players. However, they haven’t received the support they deserve from the Temple community, especially compared to the men’s team.

“I’m really pleased that marketing decided to put out a lot of promotions [for the Feb. 28 game],” Richardson said. “We’ve been doing a good job this year with wins. We need people in the stands, and we want to share that with our fans because we like the platform. And hopefully we can get some people in the stands.”

As the women’s season comes to an end, the athletic department seems to finally be doing what they can to bring people to support the Owls. Though it should have started earlier, their actions should be a blueprint for the future, hopefully providing a chance to contribute to changing the “status quo” in college athletics. 

Editor’s Note: Karen Turner was a professor for the authors of this story. Turner did not play a role in the writing or reporting of this story.

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