Starkville, Mississippi: Home of cowbells, maroon and white, and a program that has left its touch on women’s sports as a whole.
Many people wonder what success can do for you. It is almost disappointing that sometimes success is the only way to attain attention, but in a round about way, we can all agree that it makes sense. No one wants to pay for a sporting event to watch their team lose, and after all the definition of success is about popularity and money:
Success: the attainment of popularity or profit.
For so long in this country, women’s sports have been met with little fan fair, many jokes, and a disappointing amount of excitement. Even today, not many can claim they are avid fans of the WNBA (Professional Women’s Basketball), NWSL (Professional Women’s Soccer, or National Pro Fastpitch (Professional Women’s Softball). Though, in recent years, there has been a lot more eyes on the women’s basketball game than normal, and a good bit of those eyes are eyes of Mississippi State fans. Why?
One reason: Success.
For the outsiders looking in, you might wonder how many eyes could success really bring... especially from a university in a state with one of the worst reputations in the country and with a rather small population. Think again. An average of 252,000 fans alone attended games last season, per NCAA.com. Imagine how many watched on TV. It’s not a brag, it is simply what has been the reason for the transformation.
When programs, especially ones that don’t typically have success, begin to win, it begins this ripple effect that is incredible. Our big wins in the NCAA Tournament back in 2015, ultimately began everything. It created a buzz. This was a new found excitement for a school so desperate for basketball success, men’s or women’s. More people came to the game, more people watched the games on TV, and suddenly more people began to respect the women’s game as a whole. Every game you see a different opponent, each with their skill sets, showing off all the different and exciting schemes and sets unique to women’s basketball. This school ultimately became a women’s basketball school, which you can’t say for many, if any, other schools in the entire country.
The huge following the team has also grows a buzz for other teams as well. Naturally, you start to “scout” future opponents by watching there games, learn about other star players, and of course learn about the other top teams around the country. You also take an great interest in your players on your own team, especially ones who go to the WNBA like Victoria Vivians. The more top players that continue to play here, the more that will develop into top draft prospect, thus leading the Hail State crowd to the WNBA, again growing the women's game.
This year, you see more Mississippi State like teams begin to show the tremendous growth in the game, like Oregon and NC State having wonderful years. That is what success does. It transforms the landscape of the sport, and women’s sports are getting respect and attention that is long overdue. This begs the question of why isn’t there respect regardless, even without the success.
Women surrender so much to be incredible athletes. What most people fail to realize is that biological clocks don’t bother the men’s game as it does the women. For all athletes, they all have an age where they reach the prime of their careers, typically between the age of 23-30. For women, this also happens to be the prime age of having children. Often times, women have to decide between sacrificing the time in the prime of their career to have what most people want, a family. Or on the flip side, they sacrifice a family for a chance at success in the sport they love. Men do not have this conflict, not at any point.
When making this decision, they don’t typically make this decision based off of money. Why? Because of the major wage difference in men’s to women’s sports. In the WNBA, the max salary is a mere $110,000. That is a good amount of money until you compare it to the minimum contract in the NBA for a player with ZERO years of experience, which sits at $838,464.
Most of these women go and play into near empty stadiums (except in Starkville, MS), for an insult of a salary, all for the love of the game. This is why this team being successful is way more important than people will ever realize. In humble ole Mississippi, something beautiful was born. Something greater than back-to-back SEC Championships. The fans, the team, the coach, it has all been a perfect storm. To everyone who has watched a game, purchased a ticket, bought a t-shirt in support of the team, you have all been apart of an incredible movement. One that we will look back in 10 years and see how far the game has come. We can watch the 30 for 30 short on how a tiny town made big noise and see Teaira McCowan be the narrator with all her WNBA Championship rings on her fingers. And to the man who has lead the charge, you are part of something bigger than all the rings you are destined to win. Humble, Godly, and a man with one of the kindest and biggest hearts you will ever meet, the perfect recipe for a leader. The perfect leader of the perfect movement, Vic Schaefer.
Praise the Lord and Go Dawgs, always.