Last season, the Fairfield women’s lacrosse team steamrolled the MAAC, going undefeated in the conference and making it to the first round of the NCAA tournament.

On average, they had 480 fewer fans than the men’s lacrosse team, which only went 4-3 in the conference and 7-6 overall.

Fairfield is often criticized for its fan apathy overall, but a deeper issue is the fact that men’s teams are generally supported much more than women’s teams.

“I think attendance is much worse for the women,” said Chris Simmons ‘10, a reporter for The Fairfield Mirror who has been covering women’s sports since his freshman year.

“People stereotype women’s sports as having less action and less excitement,” he said.

According to men’s lacrosse head coach Andy Copelan, attendance numbers are “more based on success than gender.”

The numbers tell a different story, though. Men’s lacrosse had four times more fans on average than women’s lacrosse. The men’s team brought in as many as 1,280 fans in a single game during the fall 2009 season, while the women only got up to 425, according to the university’s athletics website.

Basketball, which some would say is Fairfield’s top sport, shows a similar disparity in support for women and men.

The men’s team attracted almost two times more fans than the women’s team over the past three years, with the men pulling an average of 2,619 fans per game and the women only getting 1,436.

This number is “in line with the national trend, our conference and the other Division I CT schools” according to Hutchinson Williams ‘08, a former FUSA president and now a graduate assistant for marketing, promotions and fan development at Fairfield.

In soccer, the men’s and women’s fan numbers are more equal. In fact, the women had 25 more fans on average than the men did during the fall 2009 season, with the women hitting about 263 fans and the men about 238.

Both teams had similar success in the season, with the men making it to the MAAC semifinal and the women to the quarterfinal.

Five-year women’s soccer head coach Jim O’Brien said attendance at Fairfield sports in general is disappointing, but campus support for men’s and women’s soccer is pretty much the same.

Campus Perception of Women’s Sports

Aside from the numbers, the campus perception seems to be that men’s sports are better attended than women’s sports.

Jenn Lawlor ’10, an attendee at the men’s soccer game against Canisius, said that she thought more people go to men’s games in any sport.

“I feel like they just have a stronger fan base, people think the games are more exciting,” said Lawlor.

According to Simmons, physicality is what draws some people to men’s sports over women’s sports. Their sheer size and aggression on the court is considered more attractive than the women’s more subtle passing game, he said.

Women’s attendance has increased about 20% in the last three years, according to Williams.

“There’s a difference but I don’t think it has to do with the quality of play,” said Williams. “Literally having been to all of our varsity sports, they’re all entertaining, all fun to watch.”

Williams said there are a number of factors other than gender that influence game attendance, including weather, opponent, time of day, location and point in the season.

Will It Ever Change?

According to Simmons, the more basic issue is that Fairfield has a small student population and sports is not a main focus for students.

“Even if every student went to the Arena [at Harbor Yard], it wouldn’t fill up,” said Simmons, noting that community members outnumber students at most basketball games.

What’s the solution? Fairfield’s department of marketing, promotions and fan development does its best to keep students informed about when games are, often doing promotions like handing out free t-shirts or game tickets, said Williams.

Their most recent program is the “Stags in the Stands Rewards Card,” a membership card given to all Fairfield undergraduates that allows students to earn rewards for attending home games. No distinction is made between attending men’s games and women’s games.

Will it help? Marissa Tota ’12 didn’t think so.

“I think it was a good idea for people who have time for games,” said Tota, “but I feel like it will benefit mostly the people who already go to games in the first place.”

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