The biggest threat to women’s athletics are the people who blatantly deny their existence and credibility. For the rest of us watching female athletes who would embarrass those random Jerry’s on Facebook who talk bad about them, we know their time has come. The push for female athletics into the national spotlight grows every year, and it’s working because more and more people are showing up for games.
In no place is college softball more important right now than The University of Alabama. The Crimson Tide jumped out to 31-0 record in 2019 after sweeping the Rainbow Wahine Classic, which is the best start in program history. The Alabama softball team could be on their way to another appearance in the Women’s College World Series, and they’re likely going to keep a decade-long trend going in the process.
Since 2008, the Alabama Crimson Tide led NCAA Division I softball in total attendance every year except for 2011 when the Arizona Wildcats — the eight-time national champions — stole the crown. In every year from 2012 to 2018, Alabama also led the nation in average attendance per game, including being the first program to average more than 3,000 fans at every home game in a season since the NCAA began tracking attendance figures in 1991.
Over that span, only three programs have ever led college softball in attendance. The Fresno State Bulldogs led the nation in average attendance 13 times between 1991 to 2005 (the other two seasons, it was Arizona), but Fresno State hasn’t been able to unseat either Alabama or Arizona since that run of dominance.
Even at the midway point of the 2019 season, the Auburn Tigers — Alabama’s SEC rival — need to lay claim to the total attendance leaderboard before the Crimson Tide inevitably take over.
The Crimson Tide are led by highly-touted freshman pitcher Montana Fouts, who could become softball’s biggest star since Olympic gold medalist Jennie Finch. The Tide can hit, they can pitch, and they have a fan following that makes Rhoads Stadium the best atmosphere in college softball. Alabama still has 12 home games remaining with SEC series against Mississippi State, Georgia and Kentucky before postseason play begins in May.
Since head coach Patrick Murphy took over the program in 1999, the Crimson Tide have reached the NCAA Tournament every single season, including winning the Women’s College World Series national championship in 2012.
Good luck unseating a program that keeps re-breaking its own attendance records. The way the 2019 season is going, they’re just getting started down in Tuscaloosa.