As I stay out of the mid-day sun, in an effort to keep my skin from turning as red as a bell pepper, I have been flipping through tv channels and see college softball. Mind you, not the championship game, but game, after game, after game. And, I am rather certain I flicked through a bunch of regional games on television last week.
How is college softball on television more often than college volleyball? I can rationalize that college softball year end games come during a very slow time in college athletics - football is not going, basketball has stopped, baseball has yet to go full into their championship run - Again, I can rationalize this but how come college volleyball is not on ESPN(s) like college softball?
It is because softball is close enough to the sport of baseball that there is a crossover of viewers? Is it because there is no other college athletic events to televise, so softball is in the right place at the right time? Is it because the game is very entertaining and full of action, that it draws the attention of viewers and sponsors? Is it because the college softball organization has done an effective job of convincing ESPN that their sport is coverage worthy?
A number of years ago, the AVCA (American Volleyball Cash Association) had a big push to get college volleyball on television - A component of this effort was to raise the dues of NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Head Coaches. This 'media fee' was supposed to grease the wheels, or at least the palms, to get college volleyball on television. By television, the NCAA DI Volleyball Head Coaches were led to believe, ESPN and the networks, as opposed to the 67 Fox sports channels out there in satellite space. Even though the increase in dues remains in place, we don't hear anything more about getting on television - Just Sand Volleyball (when Sand Volleyball does not turn out to be the answer to all things college volleyball, will we turn to Grass Volleyball? How about getting volleyball on Sirius XM satellite radio? What smoke and mirror effort to distract from the latest waste of time and money?).
Do you think there is a coincidence? I do - The whole increase in dues, support of drastically changing the playing of the volleyball, pushing the change in scoring system; all done to get college volleyball on television and all done with the aggressive backing of the AVCA. Now that this television increase has failed, college volleyball coaches and VolleyFolk are being asked to believe that Sand Volleyball is the answer and let's not look at the whole television try.
I feel that a statistical forecast of the expected increase in televising college volleyball matches before the changes, would be a dead heat with the increases that actually did happen after implementing the changes and increase in dues. It was not like volleyball was not on television - The AVCA and influential people (don't be mis-led, there a few NCAA DI college volleyball coaches which are securely under the sheets with the AVCA) were not starting from scratch. College Volleyball was going to continue to increase its television air time because the game is popular and there was an increase in available channels to televise college volleyball (all the Fox's, ESPN 1 through 88, CSTV/CBS sports).
Instead of using smoke and mirrors to justify the keeping of the media fee or the 'look over here at Sand Volleyball', we would do well to mimic women's basketball. The NCAA provides financial grants to DI member institutions specifically for marketing and promoting women's basketball (to successfully raise attendance numbers; and then the NCAA/women's basketball trumpet their annual increase in national attendance). The NCAA also sponsors an annual 'Pack the House' contest with each DI women's basketball team in each conference. What about the Koman Foundation efforts in cancer awareness? The NCAA provides huge support for women's basketball to use this as a vehicle to attract media and fans to its contests. These are all examples of where the NCAA, via direction/support/pressure from the women's basketball coaches/association, is providing direct support to generate fan interest in the game.
Why are we not doing this? It is like we are trying to put the spire on the church without building a foundation! When I do see volleyball on television, the stands are usually empty! A few years ago, the NCAA DI Championship was in Long Beach and the stands were half empty for the final - That fact reflected so poorly upon our sport. If NCAA Women's Volleyball is so great, how come the stands are not even for the National Championship - If you are Mary Somebody just flipping through the channels, are you going to stay and watch a National Championship where the seats are as empty as full.
The AVCA would be better served to take the media fee of the DI head coaches and use it to pressure the NCAA to provide some direct financial support of NCAA Women's Volleyball - Or at least use that money to make sure television events have a bit of marketing/promotions behind them to put some seats in the seats! The NCAA just signed a Gazillion dollar deal with CBS sports, so I am sure they have a buck or two they can throw our way, as long as our American Volleyball Cash Association would not act like a Dicken's novel - Don't ask, demand. Don't be nice, the AVCA should not be nice - College coaches are stuck being nice because we are usually powerless on our own campuses.
When was the last time a Club volleyball match was on national television, the USA Olympic teams (once every four years), NCAA Division II or III (maybe an end of the year match on a cable network, and I DO NOT mean to disrespect DII/DIII) ? The reality is that NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball is the apex of women's volleyball in the United States and the one which will be seen on television. As the leader in the sport, we must demand treatment equal of our status and if we can't get it from our representative organization than we are not any smarter than Wilson in Castaway.
Just look at college softball - It is DI which gets the juice. I have NEVER seen a Junior/Club (whatever it is called) softball game on television, never seen a DII/DIII game on television, but I have seen a few softball national team games on television, but those are rare and don't compare to the significant air time of DI softball. DI drives the sport and gains recognition and looks like it is much more popular than our sport. NCAA Division I softball has been on an ESPN channel (and not the ESPNU or ESPN3 which is not on any standard package of cable channels) constantly for the last three weeks! Has NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball EVER been on television for three weeks straight? We all go nuts to see one Final Four match live and accept a tape delay, chopped up version of the other match. ESPN is showing a huge number of the games live, and they have a bracket of eight for the DI softball championship, along with using a double elimination format!!!!
Bottom line, College Volleyball Coaches need to start demanding support AND WE NEED A FREAKING ASSOCIATION WHICH WILL HELP US! I don't care about Sand Volleyball, I don't care about managing the Junior Volleyball Association (yes, the AVCA manages club volleyball, gotta love that move to sneak some milk from the cash cow of junior volleyball ), I don't care about having 400 exhibitors at the American Volleyball Cash Association convention, or some talk by an old guy who wrote a book about raising bamboo, and whatever the tangent of the coefficient for perfect passing form dictated by the non-USA citizen who is coaching the USA National Team.
What I want is support to increase fan attendance, increase the financial viability of being a college volleyball coach (imagine married assistant coaches actually being able to support their families on their salary; it happens in basketball(s) and football), having an advocate to assist with Title 9 issues - I want professional support from an organization whose total focus is college volleyball.
OK - The sunshine is not as intense, back out into the wilds of vacation tanning!