College sports have become a stepping stone to the pros… It needs attention
In 2022, South Korea’s national soccer team reached the round of 16 for the first time in 12 years, and the country’s interest in soccer 꽁머니 was at an all-time high. This interest led to the opening of the 2023 K League 1. It is no exaggeration to say that the ‘K League boom’ has arrived, with all seats sold out within a day of ticket opening.
Baseball is no different. Despite South Korea’s first-round exit at the 2023 WBC, the 2023 KBO season kicked off with a sellout of all stadiums for the first time in the 10-team system. Even though the league has been plagued by major scandals, such as sexual misconduct and illegal gambling, South Koreans still show a passionate interest in the sport, even if it is mixed with criticism.
While professional sports are an integral part of South Korea’s culture, interest in collegiate sports is much lower. According to the Korea University Sports Federation (KUSF), “The number of spectators in the University Sports League (U-League) has always been at the bottom. This is an undesirable phenomenon as spectators have a significant impact on the progress of the game,” said the team, expressing concern about the grim reality of college sports.
What’s causing the apathy toward college sports?
Among the many reasons why college sports are failing at the box office, the rise of professional sports stands out. High school standouts who excel in their respective sports usually turn pro right out of high school. Even those who go on to play in college often choose to join the pros in the middle of their careers, if possible. A member of Hongik University’s baseball team says, “It’s a ‘shot in the dark’ to get drafted as an ‘early draft’ (student-athletes who are enrolled in a four-year college or three-year university enter the draft after completing their sophomore year – reporter’s note), but the vast majority of players strive to make it. Many players try out for professional teams through open tryouts while they are still in school,” he explains, “because once they go pro, their future and income are guaranteed.” Because of this, it’s hard to find prospects in the U-League who can mobilize crowds.
The lack of prospects not only affects crowd mobilization, but also the overall level of the league. “The gap between the college and professional leagues is getting deeper and deeper as excellent players do not go through college,” said B, a former professor at Yonsei University’s Department of Sports and Applied Industry. It’s no wonder that professional sports, which are vastly superior to amateur sports in terms of quality, monopolize the attention of fans. Mr. C (Theology, 19), a student at Yonsei University, said, “I usually enjoy soccer and basketball, but I’ve never watched a college league. I think it would be a bit boring to watch a college league after watching a professional league with excellent performance,” explaining why he doesn’t watch college sports.
It’s called ‘college’ sports… but X doesn’t care, and Y doesn’t.
College sports are a complete failure, not only in terms of performance, but also in terms of promotion and marketing. Empty stadiums in the U-League are now a common sight, and the only people who fill them are the players’ parents, a few friends, and the school newspaper reporters. Are students not interested in college sports or can’t they?
“Even if you want to go to the U-League, it is difficult to intuit unless you have a special interest because the game schedule is not well known,” said Mr. D, a management student at Yonsei University. “I wish the school would promote it more actively.” KUSF, which hosts the U-League, provides the U-League schedule for each sport on its website, but for students who are not aware of KUSF’s existence, it is not clear where they can find the schedule. The university headquarters, which is supposed to instill a sense of “our athletic department” in students, is also not doing anything to promote the league. In other words, even if students want to be interested in college sports, the environment is not set up for them.
What college sports need most is attention
Of all the ways to revitalize the dying sport, the most important is student interest. Recently, KUSF switched to a “home-and-home” format for basketball and soccer to make it easier for students to get to games (the two teams in a sporting event, the home 메이저놀이터 주소 team and the away team, play each other once at the other’s home field – reporter’s note). While this made it more accessible, the problem was that it wasn’t being promoted enough.
There are student organizations on campus that have stepped up to the plate to address the lack of publicity. Yonsei University’s sports magazine, Sisbumba, covers all five divisions of the U-League, writes articles, and provides schedules and results on social media. The Yonsei soccer team’s front office, which introduced the concept of a “front office” that only exists in professional sports, provides students with information about the starting lineup. In addition, Yonsei’s basketball supporters, Blue Rim, sells various goods, holds on-site events, and mobilizes crowds.
Thanks to these efforts, the awareness of college sports on campus has increased slightly. However, there are obviously limits to unprofessional student promotion. Therefore, there is a need for institutionalized promotion through cooperation between the university, KUSF, and student organizations.
College sports are not popular, but when they are held regularly, many students fill the stadiums, not only because of the name of the game, but also because of the active promotion on campus. It’s time for the U-League to do the same. If we can make college sports more accessible to students, we can draw a blueprint for college sports.