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‘We’ve Had Sellouts’: Harvard Women’s Basketball Attendance Soars as Sport Gains Traction

Attendance at Harvard women's basketball games as jumped amid a nationwide rise in popularity.
Attendance at Harvard women's basketball games as jumped amid a nationwide rise in popularity. By Courtesy of Harvard Athletic Communications
By Jo B. Lemann, Crimson Staff Writer

As the popularity of women’s college basketball skyrockets, Harvard’s own women’s team has seen attendance rise to 1,054 on average for home games this season — a jump of nearly 300 from last year.

This spike in attendance narrows the gap with Harvard’s men’s team, which saw a decrease in attendance of about 100 for an average of 1,339 attendees this season.

This year also marks the first time when viewership for the women’s NCAA championship game for women’s basketball outpaced the men’s game, with many tuning in to watch University of Iowa star Caitlin Clark play her final collegiate game against the University of South Carolina.

At Harvard, former University President Claudine Gay and Massachusetts Governor Maura T. Healey ’92 sat in the front row during a home game in January at Lavietes Pavilion.

Katie Krupa ’26, a sophomore on the basketball team, said she noticed the increased attention for women’s basketball in her personal life.

“Just recently, I’ve had friends who are friends of mine that are outside of basketball and outside of sports, who have come up to me and said, ‘You know I’m watching the Iowa-UConn game,’” Krupa said.

Still, Krupa acknowledged the challenge of playing women’s basketball before the recent boom in popularity, saying that it’s “hard being so obsessed with a sport” when no one “really understands the passion.”

Harmoni Turner ’25, a junior on the team, said that it was “definitely challenging” to care so much about the sport before the increase in attention.

“I think women’s basketball is definitely a competitive sport and it was very undervalued for many, many years,” Turner said.

Turner said she’s noticed a marked change at Harvard women’s basketball games in her time at the school from when there were sometimes home games with “like five people in the stands.”

“It just seemed like yesterday it was no one in the stands, and no one really cared about basketball. And now, that’s all that people talk about is women’s basketball,” Turner said.

Elle E. Stauffer ’25, a junior on the basketball team, also noted the change.

“Especially since my freshman year, we’ve definitely had bigger crowds,” Stauffer said. “We’ve had sellouts, which is a big deal.”

Krupa said that the crowds for women’s games at Harvard look different than those for the men’s games — with younger families and fewer alumni.

“It is different faces in the stands,” Krupa said. “I don’t see the same crowd in women’s basketball as in men’s. I actually sometimes notice some more enthusiastic ones in our crowd.”

“Typically, it’s newer faces, younger faces,” Krupa added.

Turner also noted that Ivy League basketball has generated top talent in recent years. Last week, three Ivy League players — including former Crimson star McKenzie E. Forbes ’23 — were drafted into the WNBA.

Turner said that she wished the level of play in the Ivy League was more widely recognized.

“We get thrown under the bus a bit because we are in the Ivy League,” Turner said.

She noted that teams like Columbia, which finished the season 23-7, had a stronger season than some teams that ended up in the NCAA tournament. While Columbia qualified to play Vanderbilt for a spot in the tournament, they lost the game.

Still, Turner said she wished to see more than one Ivy League team in the NCAA tournament.

“The Ivy League does have a lot of talent, and there should be more than one team going to March Madness every year,” Turner said.

Stauffer said that it’s difficult to qualify for a national championship in a sport as competitive as basketball, but she values that Harvard players are “challenged academically and athletically.”

“I think that just really shows you how dedicated we are and not only how talented we are on the court, but also off the court,” Stauffer said.

—Staff writer Jo B. Lemann can be reached at Follow her on X @Jo_Lemann.

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