Over 7,000 people packed into Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa over the weekend to watch Alabama softball defeat Kentucky in two games to advance to their 13th Women’s College World Series.
Following the series-clinching 4-1 win over the Wildcats on Saturday afternoon, head coach Murphy made a statement about the popularity of softball during his postgame interview. He then challenged athletic directors around the country to help continue growing the game.
Alabama softball has made an appearance in every single super regional since the format began in 2005 and has appeared in the Women’s College World Series 12 times in history.
The success on the field has translated to success in revenue. Crimson Tide Softball brought in more money than any other women’s sport on campus in 2019 by earning $1,314,124 according to the University’s annual athletics report, and the fourth highest-earning athletic program at the University of Alabama.
According to an article by the Saint Peter’s Tribune, Alabama softball was one of 70 teams across the country to earn at least $1 Million in 2018. One sign of that is the growth in coverage.
Every game of the 2021 regionals was broadcasted by the ESPN family of networks, whether it be on cable or digital platforms such as SEC Network+. History was made this weekend, as game two between Oklahoma and Washington was broadcasted by ABC for the first time ever.
The growth of the sport has allowed many universities to add softball, such as Duke and Clemson. The two Atlantic Coast Conference universities have added softball programs over the last three seasons, and went deep into their respective regional rounds against SEC teams who are headed to the Women’s College World Series. Duke played well in the Athens Regional before falling to Georgia, while Clemson made it to the Tuscaloosa regional final against Alabama.
The quote from Murphy was fueled by last weekend’s attendance numbers at Rhonda Stadium. In two games, over 7,000 fans attended the Tuscaloosa Super Regional. As Murphy mentioned, he had hundreds of requests for tickets before they were available to the general public.
I believe that his quote had multiple meanings. It was a challenge to university athletic directors of schools who already have a program to invest more money into their softball programs, whether it be upgrading facilities, expand seating, or increasing marketing.
It could have also been a message to those universities who do not have a softball program, such as Vanderbilt, the only Southeastern Conference institution to not field a team. The Southeastern Conference had 12 teams compete in the NCAA regionals, with South Carolina being the lone team left out. Having Vanderbilt in the league. with the success of the Commodore baseball program, and appeal of Nashville as a whole, it is hard to think that Vanderbilt Softball would not be successful in a few years.
It’s easy to see why softball is a growing support, both in revenue and popularity. The pageantry in Tuscaloosa that is shown every home game as well as the positive, fighting spirit that each team shows no matter the score, make Softball a hot ticket.
I echo Murph’s comments… “invest in softball.”