Last week, ESPN told the story of Lauren Luttrell, a Virginia Tech freshman looking to parlay her high school football success as a placekicker to an opportunity with the Hokies. While Luttrell’s journey ultimately ended short of making the team, she’s also not the first female to give it a go at the FBS level. Which got us thinking more about women in college football overall…
Today’s post features fellow Syracuse grad (full disclosure: and my girlfriend) Kendra Brogden, and her opinion on whether or not D-1 football is for everyone, if we’ll ever see a full-time female kicker in the FBS and more.
John: We’ll start off with the big question – should women be playing college football, specifically at the FBS level?
Kendra: In my opinion, if a woman can play a male-dominated sport at a competitive level, I see no reason why she should not be playing on these teams. That said, there should not be any special allowances or “handicaps” available for females that want to play the sport. If they can play a strong role on the team, they should be practicing with the team and playing on the field.
J: Do you think it’ll ever happen? And what are the factors preventing it (if any)?
K: Per the aforementioned ESPN article, there are currently more than 700 females playing football at the high school level. So what happens to these athletes once they graduate and attend colleges? I would be interested to know the statistics around how many of these high school athletes try out for their college teams – my thought would be that the percentage is low and probably the reason that it has not happened yet. Nonetheless, I predict that there will be a female player in the FBS in the next 10 years, most likely at the kicker position, in my opinion.
J: Should a female ever become a full-time kicker for a big university’s football team, what are the potential on- and off-the-field hurdles? Does something like needing separate facilities for men and women have something to do with it?
K: I think that if a female wants to become a full-time kicker and can achieve on a level comparative to her peers she should, however it would be naïve to say that there would no be hurdles. Personally, the idea of sharing a locker room with 80-plus men would be uncomfortable to say the least. On the flip side, however, that is where a lot of team camaraderie is born. For a female to play football at the college level, she would need to have a very strong personality and unwavering confidence in her ability to not only play with the guys, but mentally and emotionally hold her own.
J: The WNBA struggles to stay afloat (bank-rolled by the NBA), while women’s college basketball at least experiences moderate success (this year’s championship grabbed a 3.2 television rating). What do you think prevents women’s sports from being more popular?
K: Sports news revolves around men’s teams, and while female sports don’t go unmentioned they are rarely the front-page story and therefore become an afterthought for many sports fans. Part of this also stems from men being more comfortable watching other men play sports, and females usually watching sports with other guys. The level of competition in men’s sports is stereotypically much higher and therefore it catches the eyes and ears of the masses. How many of us have ever submitted an bracket for the women’s tournament? How many of us can name more than three female players in the NCAA? I think that men have a plethora of sports to watch year-round as it is, so are women ready to take the lead in increasing viewership? My honest answer is I will not give up my Bravo shows to tune into women’s basketball, but maybe others feel differently.
J: So does that mean female viewers hold the key to the financial success of women’s athletics, or does it come down to generating male interest? If it does come down to males, is that an attainable goal?
K: Unless Syracuse is playing, I will rarely turn on a sports game of any type myself. That said, I probably watch at least three games a week (and more during the NCAA tournament). Why? Because John or a group of friends are watching the game and I decide to tune in as well. If that same group tuned into a female sports game I would probably watch it, although admittedly the same level of interest would not be there without knowing the players themselves, or the history of the programs. Tracking back to the previous answer, women may lead to more active viewers, but men and mixed groups would lead to more casual interest at least.
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