As University of Texas heads to Final Four, volleyball booms
Women's volleyball, growing steadily stateside for years, is now experiencing a full-blown domestic boom.
State of play: The University of Texas Longhorns, ranked No. 1 nationally, just booked their place in the NCAA Final Four, and the college game's popularity is just one reason for fans — and investors — to be excited right now.
- Youth participation: Girls' high school volleyball participation has increased 8.4% since 2012, per WSJ, pushing it ahead of basketball as the second-most popular sport.
- College viewership: Last year's NCAA final drew an ESPN record of 1.2 million viewers.
- Pro leagues: There were no U.S. women's pro leagues in 2020. By 2024, there could be four.
- Olympic success: The U.S. won its first-ever women's indoor volleyball Olympic gold medal last summer in Tokyo.
What they're saying: Volleyball's fast pace and athleticism "is really well-suited to social and digital, where it connects with younger audiences," says Jon Patricof, CEO of professional league Athletes Unlimited, which recently struck a deal with ESPN.
Zoom in: Austin-area high school volleyball programs Lake Travis, Rouse and Dripping Springs are ranked in the top 20 statewide.
- The Longhorns, a perennial powerhouse, won the national championship in 2012, and have been runner-ups three times since.
The big picture: With more kids playing volleyball, the college game has become talent rich at a time when media companies are expanding their coverage of women's sports.
Worth noting: One current star Longhorn — Logan Eggleston, who helped lead student-athlete protests in the wake of George Floyd's 2020 murder — could one day be the nation's president, per her teammates.
What we're watching: The Longhorns next play in the national semifinal in Omaha against the University of San Diego at 6pm Thursday on ESPN.
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