With apologies to the volleyball and women’s cross country teams, the National Championship won last night by the Huskies softball team is the greatest athletic accomplishment by the University of Washington since the football team won a share of the national title in 1991.
Anyone could argue this point, and I’m sure they will, but the fact is that outside of the major revenue sports at any university (football and basketball, namely), there are only so many athletic programs that still manage to bring in any discernible amount of money for the school they represent. Softball happens to be one of those sports.
So is volleyball, many will say, and especially at the University of Washington. This is true, of course, but since winning the 2005 NCAA National Championship, the UW volleyball program hasn’t been able to capitalize off their achievements the way softball will now be able to.
Why, you ask?
For one, the volleyball team was already playing in a fully functional, recently renovated arena that needed no upgrades in order to host home games, as well as postseason playoff rounds.
For another, the attendance for volleyball games was already as high as it would likely ever be in 2005, and the immediate year following. Though Hec Edmundson Pavilion can hold roughly 10,000 people, volleyball has never shown a consistent ability to sell out the arena, and not even a National Championship has proven any different.
The softball team, on the other hand, is currently playing on a field better suited for a high school team.
The grandstand is nearly non-existent, and the field doesn’t even have lights. The lack of lighting means no night games and no postseason play at Husky Softball Stadium.
Furthermore, attendance stands to see a considerable boost from the National Championship won last night.
Softball is a highly attractive sport for girls in the area, and the softball team might even manage to pull in the occasional baseball fan, as well. Baseball, as we all know, has been arguably the most fan-friendly sport in this region for decades.
Addtionally, the championship equals fan interest, which equals revenue, which equals lights, which equals more home games and even more potential revenue. The earnings from the increased fan presence and new stadium lights (which were confirmed for installation yesterday by University of Washington athletic director Scott Woodward) could mean future upgrades to the stadium, as well, such as a larger seating capacity.
If all these things come to fruition as expected, the UW softball team will profit off their championship unlike the volleyball or women’s cross country teams (sorry, women’s XC, but it doesn’t appear to be happening) ever could. That fact alone makes this the most important title in the last twenty years of the school’s history.
Hell, all the football National Championship brought us was increased scrutiny from the NCAA and a swift kick in the pants. You might be able to argue that this softball National Championship could very well be the most important title in UW history, period. Think about that.