Watching Blake Dietrick shoot the ball is fun. In the women’s basketball game against Oregon on Sunday, the junior guard hit every single shot she took in the first half — eight buckets on eight shots, accounting for 21 of the Tigers’ 55 points going into halftime. Did I mention she sunk every one of the five three-pointers that she attempted in those 20 minutes?
It’s safe to say that Dietrick will continue to hit threes as the season goes on. She sits at second in the Ivy League so far this year in three-pointers and is fifth in points per game. Maybe Dietrick will put up another perfect half in one of Princeton’s next two games on the road, or maybe she’ll do it when the Tigers return to Jadwin Gymnasium on Dec. 15 for their third home game of the year. The real question is, will there be anyone there to watch her try?
Last season, 14,499 people attended the 13 women’s basketball games played in Jadwin, averaging just over 1,115 spectators per game. This year, 710 people showed up for the Cagers’ home opener against Marist.
It’s not as if people don’t like watching Princeton basketball: 34,667 fans watched the men’s basketball team play 13 games at home last year. That’s 20,168 more people over the course of a season and just over 2,660 fans per game — which means that an average of over 1,400 more people will attend a given men’s game than a women’s game.
People are definitely going to Princeton basketball games — just not to watch the women play.
Maybe it’s because the women’s squad currently has an iron grip on the Ivy League, with the preseason polls picking the Tigers to finish first in the conference for the fifth year in a row. Last year, their average margin of victory was over 18 points, while they defeated league opponents by an average of just over 27 points per game. The men’s team, on the other hand, was in a far more interesting position last year. The Ivy League was a circus at the end of the season, with Princeton’s offense collapsing at the finish line, and the Tigers watched the Ivy title slip away to rival Harvard for the third year running. This year, Princeton is projected to be in the middle of the pack, but it could end up going either way for the Tigers. Is the women’s league too predictable to attract fans? Are the games too boring? Can a team be too good to draw crowds?
Maybe Princeton’s problem is purely institutional. Maybe it’s an issue as simple as timing: In instances where both Princeton squads play in Jadwin on game day, the women’s team usually plays earlier than the men’s. Is a later game, one that starts when people are finished with work and practice, more conducive to drawing a bigger crowd, or is that an oversimplification of the issue?
Still, these attendance numbers aren’t unique to Princeton — the problem is nationwide. The average men’s basketball attendance for home games in NCAA Division I is 4,994. For women, the number is dramatically lower: 1,583. At almost every Division I college, more people are consistently going to men’s basketball games than women’s.
Nobody has a definitive answer as to why the men’s basketball program outdraws its female counterpart at Princeton or at other colleges. Princeton’s women’s team has been No. 1 in the Ivy League for a long time now, but it’s clearly still stuck in second place.