One of the biggest challenges Samford Athletics Director Martin Newton faces at Samford University is developing school spirit. Samford’s female student-athletes, in particular, have a difficult time with this challenge.
According to Newton, 1,435 students attended Samford’s first home football game on Aug. 30. This was more than 70 percent of Samford’s student body and represented the highest percentage of school spirit shown in the nation. The student body attendance shown at this game was a tremendous increase, but Samford’s female student-athletes want their fan base to increase as well.
Although comparing a Samford football game to a women’s athletic event is not ideal, there tends to be a slight difference in the fan support shown at a comparable men’s athletics event and a women’s athletics event.
“Things should be fair, but are not always,” Newton said.
Samford University is home to 360 student-athletes. Of these student-athletes, 35 percent are female, which is around 125 female student-athletes. The women’s athletics teams account for a majority of Samford’s athletics championships, Newton said.
“They are good, but why do students not come?” Newton said.
Ultimately, the answer to that question is up to students. The athletics department has done its part by forming partnerships with several organizations to increase the fan base of the women’s sporting events, such as not ticketing for the women’s athletic events, hosting a taco night for a volleyball game, and passing out scarves at soccer games.
Kevin Young, the associate athletics director for marketing and strategic communication at Samford, discussed the importance of students forming a relationship with the female-athletes, which in turn could help increase the fan support.
“People will support things they have a reason to support,” Young said.
Newton emphasized the importance of the athletes at Samford being recognized as students first — like their non-athlete peers. Diminishing the separation between students and athletes is a way to build friendships and relationships in order to help support one another.
Regardless of a student’s designation, Newton said it’s important to be present.
“Love the school you’re at. You can be an Alabama fan, you can be a Georgia Fan, but you go to Samford. Embrace the school you’re at,” Newton said.
Jarece Tillery, Sports Writer
[Photo courtesy of Levi Edwards]