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Parcells: Women’s sports attendance world record is sign of change

Collegian | Sophia Sirokman

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Thousands of people turned out to support the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s women’s volleyball team in their match against the University of Nebraska Omaha. The event showed support for women’s collegiate athletics in a way that has never been seen before. On Wednesday, Aug. 30, in Lincoln, Nebraska, history was made in Memorial Stadium by a crowd that wasn’t there to watch football.


The team was greeted by a deafening roar produced by just over 92,000 people along with the news that they had just set a new world record for the highest attendance at a women’s sporting event.

Not only was it the most attended women’s event at the collegiate level, but it made history in women’s sporting events as a whole as they beat out the previous record set at a soccer match between Barcelona and Wolfsburg with about 91,600 people in attendance. It also beat out the previous attendance record at Memorial Stadium of about 91,500 people that was set at a football game back in 2014.

The story of how the women of the UNL volleyball team were able to make history is one of administrative support, determination and a changing landscape in collegiate athletics.

When most of us think of collegiate athletics, we think of football. That’s not to say we don’t acknowledge other sports at all, but college football is an undeniably prominent figure in collegiate athletics and U.S. culture. 

On any campus home to a football team, especially a Division I team, you can expect to find the stadium full of cheering crowds decked out in school colors showing their support. Faculty, students, alumni and locals all show up to the games, and even more people will tune in from home to watch on television.

Historically, there has been a hierarchy on college campuses when it comes to sports with men’s athletics at the top. They receive the most funding, recognition and support on average, while women’s athletics generally operate with less. 

There have been a handful of arguments and explanations for this over the years. Some say it’s because the football teams bring in more money for universities, while others argue that it’s because men’s sports are simply more interesting to watch. 

The women of the UNL volleyball team took that idea and completely shattered it, in part thanks to the university recognizing volleyball as equally important along with their willingness to support the program. 

The team was not originally going for a world record. Initially, the goal had been to set the record for most attendance for a regular-season women’s volleyball match, a record they held previously before their rivals from the University of Wisconsin took the title. That record was 16,833 people.


Before this record-breaking moment, the UNL women’s volleyball team was familiar with sold-out home games. They hold the NCAA record for a women’s sellout streak with 306 straight regular-season matches, so the idea to take back their title as the highest attended women’s volleyball match wasn’t quite so daunting — they just needed the space. 

The idea of using the university’s basketball arena was brought to Vice Chancellor for Athletics Trev Alberts’ attention by John Cook, the head coach of women’s volleyball, because their usual arena couldn’t fit enough people to break the record. Alberts could have signed off on that and called it a day.

Instead, he encouraged them all to dream bigger.

The decision to hold a volleyball match at Memorial Stadium led to excitement around the entire state of Nebraska, and tickets sold out quickly. It became such a big deal that the Nebraska governor declared Aug. 30 to be “Nebraska Volleyball Day,” and UNL canceled classes the day of.

It cannot be overemphasized how important this event was to women athletes everywhere. The crowd was packed full of young girls who will get to grow up looking back on this moment and know that their contribution to the world of athletics is just as important as that of their male peers. They will grow up in a world wherein the women athletes who came before them demanded the world stop and pay attention.

This one regular-season volleyball game has now gone down in history all because the athletes knew their worth, and the community and administration recognized it. Instead of doing the bare minimum to support the team, the administration stepped up with them, and together they told the world that women’s athletics are just as valuable and worthy of respect and support, and a world record-breaking crowd showed up to prove it.

Reach Hannah Parcells at  or on Twitter @hannahparcells.

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