USU Women’s Basketball vs. Colorado St, 01/19/22. Photo by Rick Parker
To those who support women’s sport, I must say before I begin: we know who you are, we appreciate you and we don’t take the love you have given us for granted. Your support means the world to us. I have made friendships with constant fans, hopefully to last a lifetime. When I say that, I’m not talking about you.
I talk to the dad who has young daughters and has never taken them to see a women’s sporting event. I’m talking to the old couple who have lived in Logan for over 30 years and have only ever watched men’s basketball and soccer. 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, a soccer game, or tennis, a gymnastics meet or one of the various USU women’s clubs.
I talk to fans who think they are real fans because they cheer on the men’s teams and have never considered the female athletes who train so hard, earn so much, and play for this school with so much passion. You are not a real fan.
If you don’t support female athletes at Utah State University, you miss more than half of the amazing achievements and athletic endeavors of USU athletes.
You missed seeing the volleyball team go from a winless season to regular season champions Mountain West in just two years.
You missed seeing women’s basketball win a game with just five players after the entire bench was ejected at halftime. You missed seeing them beat defending champions Mountain West at home. You know Sam Merrill and Neemias Queta, incredible basketball players who now represent the Aggie Nation professionally, but do you know Hailey Bassett, Marlene Aniambossu or Rachel Brewster who did the same?
You missed softball’s Kennedy Hira who won a grand slam against conference champions Fresno.
You missed seeing the tennis team come back after losing 0-3 to Colorado State, winning four straight to win 4-3.
You missed seeing football beat BYU and having a record season under a freshman head coach. You missed seeing Ashley Cardozo become a literal legend and you can’t celebrate her signing to a professional team in France.
You missed record after record gymnastics in their 2022 season behind the incredible performances of Sofi Sullivan, ranked first in the conference on balance beam and Rebecca Wells, ranked second in the All-Around category.
I say all of this because I spent the last five years as a female athlete at USU. I saw it first hand. And I can say with confidence that more members of the community who currently live in Logan watched my father, Eric Franson, play basketball in the 90s than I have seen play in the last five years. Most students don’t even know who I am.
Please don’t misunderstand when I say this because I say this as someone who is a fourth generation Aggie. I love this school more than anything and I was born Aggie Blue. If I can help it, my kids will be fifth-generation Aggies. It comes from a place where you know what the Aggie Nation is capable of, a place of love for the school I’ve dreamed of playing in all my life.
I am forever grateful for the five years I spent as Aggie. The opportunity to grow as an athlete and as a person is something that will stay with me as I step out into the world. I love. This. School.
It’s also important to recognize that this is common in most schools, high schools, and colleges. The support for female athletes just isn’t there yet nationally. Unless it’s the top women’s programs, the stands are usually empty. But why do the Aggies have to be like everyone else? Why aren’t we doing better?
We need to do better and be better for our female athletes. They deserve just as much support and respect. And for the moment, they do not understand.
I’m not the only female athlete to think this.
“People are so easy to hate in women’s sports saying they’re boring,” said Mazie McFarlane, a USU softball player. “Yet I never sat and watched.”
McFarlane is in his third year at USU and has noticed the lack of support throughout.
“Going to men’s basketball or soccer games is crazy for me because I see all these people there,” McFarlane said. “I wonder, where are they when any women’s sport is playing?”
In January 2022, the women’s and men’s basketball teams played a double-header, meaning both teams played in the Spectrum on the same night. The women’s team saw the Spectrum, full of fans totaling over 9,000, empty to less than 50 after the men’s game ended, despite tickets being purchased that night, including both games.
Emmie Harris and Justin Bean came to USU at the same time. Both broke records, led their team to victory, and represented Utah State in a way that any Aggie can be proud of. However, most Aggies have only seen one in action.
“As we travel to other places to play, we see how supported other women’s teams are in their communities,” Harris said. “We know it’s possible to get that kind of support here in Logan.”
The average attendance for men’s basketball games in 2022 is between 7,892. The women’s average is 634.
“We have very dedicated fans who are very supportive and come to every game,” Harris said, “but this number is very low compared to the men’s team.”
The women’s basketball program has implemented several tactics to gain greater support from the community and students. Harris says they haven’t changed anything.
These tactics apply to other women’s sports teams and include $5,000 to the person who attends the most women’s basketball games, or free food and t-shirts at other events.
“It’s heartbreaking that we as female athletes are trying so hard with incentives just to get a decent sized group through,” said USU female tennis player Sidnee Lavatai.
Lavatai believes those who support female athletes are consistent and bring great energy. She suggested that fellow athletes need to support each other more to help build community support.
Corrine Larsen, who played volleyball for four years at USU, said the difference is obvious.
“There’s a clear numerical superiority of male athletes getting attention,” Larsen said. “We just feel like the secondary additions are there only to meet Title IX requirements.”
Title IX being legislation that requires equal access to education for male and female students. In practice, it is used to guarantee equal amounts of scholarships to male and female athletes.
“It should be a goal for more Aggie fans to expand their range of support for women’s 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 a lack of representation on social media, favoritism from the university itself, and administration and donors who only take the time to get to know “golden boy” male athletes.
She also wanted to highlight people who show consistent support for female athletes.
“There were community members who were huge fans and supporters of us and that made all the difference,” Larsen said. “I encourage everyone to get out and bond with all the teams.”
If you’re reading this and taking away anything other than how much I love this school, you’re missing the point. It’s because I like USU that I want to ask him for better. It’s because I love the people here that I know they are capable of more.
It’s because I loved being an athlete here and know how much other female athletes love it here that I want more people to see what we’re capable of; how hard we work and how much we care about this school.
The grueling hours spent on the court or in the field don’t change because of gender. The physical demands, the emotional toll, the passion, the dedication. None of this differs. The A does not light up a different shade of blue when a male team earns verses when a female team does. So why is our support changing?
All I ask is this: if you’ve never been there, try to go once. Just one time.
Taylor Franson has been recognized multiple times as an All-Mountain West Academic Basketball Player and Mountain West Scholar Athlete and recently completed her final year of eligibility for the USU Women’s Basketball Team.