COLUMN: 2023: The Year of the Girl – and Women in Sports

Why you should starting showing up for UP female athletes

By Emma Swett | December 4, 2023 5:30pm
by Emma Swett / The Beacon

You’ve probably seen the headlines for how many tickets were sold at the box office for “Barbie,” or how much revenue Taylor Swift is expected to take in from her Eras Tour. But what about headlines like these:  

“Nebraska volleyball sets world record for women’s sports attendance”

“N.C.A.A. Women’s Tournament Shatters Rating Record in Final”

“2023 WNBA Finals nets highest TV viewership in 20 years on ESPN”

“Most-watched NCAA volleyball match ever: 2023 continues to smash records”

2023 was a record breaking year for women, but it was an earth-shattering one for women in sports. Attendance, viewership, ratings — you name it, and it grew exponentially. Basketball and volleyball games were played in football stadiums and WNBA games were streamed on ESPN.

As attendance and viewership increased, women stepped up to the plate. Female collegiate athletes are now making millions on their name, image and likeness and signing brand deals with some of the biggest companies in the world. 

Here’s everything you may have missed from women in sports this year, and why you should care. 

The University of Iowa and Louisiana State University’s (LSU) women’s basketball teams set the tone in March. In the NCAA championship game, the two teams accumulated around 9.9 million viewers on ESPN+, with viewership peaking at 12.6 million. 

This was the most viewed college sporting event ever on ESPN+.

Prior to the tournament, LSU star Angel Reese’s name image and likeness value was $371,000. Since then, it has skyrocketed to $1.3 million. 

On Aug. 30, Nebraska women’s volleyball set the world record for number of fans to ever attend a women’s sporting event. 92,003 fans packed Memorial Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska to take part in this monumental moment in sports history, breaking the previous world record of 91,648. 

What else made this night so special? The game was played in the University of Nebraska’s football stadium. 

Nebraska women’s volleyball would then go on to win their next 23 games straight. 

The football stadium fun didn’t stop with Nebraska Women’s Volleyball. The University of Iowa Hawkeyes women’s basketball team sold out Kinnick Stadium, selling 55,646 tickets for their game against DePaul University on Oct. 15.  

The University of Iowa game surpassed the record for attendance at a women’s college basketball game, which was previously set in the 2002 Women’s Final Four at 29,619. 

This attention led Iowa's Caitlin Clark to become the first college athlete ever to be sponsored by State Farm Insurance, a company who endorses some of the biggest names in sports. Clark has also signed with companies like Nike, Bose and Buick.

In Oct., the WNBA finals became the most watched finals series in league history. With viewership peaking at 1.3 million during the final game of the four game series, total viewership was up a whopping 36% from the previous 2022 season. 

Since then, the Las Vegas Aces have been projected to be the next great American sports dynasty with the stats proving them to be the best team in men’s or women’s basketball right now.

Women’s college volleyball also got its time on the air. On Oct. 29, the first NCAA college volleyball match to ever be streamed on Fox amassed 1.66 million viewers. 

So why should you care? 

The University of Portland can’t compete with the attendance and viewership numbers being seen at these Big 10 and Big 12 schools or by other professional sports teams. 

But at one point in time I’m sure the same thing was said about Caitlin Clark or the WNBA, and our female athletes have been working to put UP on the map as a mid-major school. 

With the ‘23-’24 season just getting started, the UP women’s basketball team is coming off of last season’s West Coast Conference Championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance. 

Start showing up, because when you give women a platform, you know they will too. 

Emma Swett is a sports reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at