It strikes me as a little bit odd that the Kentucky softball team has not received as much publicity as you would think is deserved for making it to the College World Series. Yes, TV stations and blogs and newspapers mentioned the team taking 2 of 3 at UCLA over the weekend. But I still don’t think it got the attention it deserved. UCLA is the premiere program of women’s softball. They have won 11 national titles in a sport that didn’t start giving out national titles until 1982. Oh, and they’ve finished runner-up another 7 times. Which means in the 31 years that college softball has had a national championship, UCLA has been in the national title game in 18 of 31 years. That is an incredible dynasty and Kentucky just bounced them on their home field in the NCAA Tournament.
I’m not saying softball should ever come up to the passion and fanhood of a basketball or football. But, what if the girls go on to win the national title? Or what if they become regulars in the College World Series? Is there any possibility of softball becoming a major sports for the university? Not a revenue sport, but a sport that develops a serious following amongst the fans? Think Tennessee women’s basketball or LSU baseball? Consider that the Tigers average over 11,000 fans per game in a sport where you will see 35-40 home games a year. Obviously the UK Softball complex doesn’t hold that many people, but could we ever get to a spot where UK softball sells out every home game?
I don’t see why not. Men’s basketball is always going to be king and football in the south is always going to draw serious interest. But, the football team success on the field leaves much to desire. If there was another team on campus who year in and year out were national competitors, would the UK nation stand behind that team, even if it was in a female sport? I think softball could be the perfect option for UK fans. The game moves along much faster than baseball and the smaller fields and shorter basepaths can often lead to a more exciting game. The games only go 7 innings as well, so it is not a huge time consumer. Plus, it’s an outdoor activity, which I always like better than the indoors.
Is it possible? If the UK softball team was making regular trips to the CWS in Oklahoma City, could they become a “major” sport at UK? Or is it men’s basketball and football for eternity?