The Impact of Scandal on NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Fan Consumption and Team Success

Sarah B. Williams – University of Louisville
T. Christopher Greenwell – University of Louisvill


Scandal in sport violates fan assumptions and can have a detrimental impact upon success both in winning percentage and financial bottom line (Prior, O’Reilly, Mazanov, & Huybers, 2013). Division I NCAA Women’s Basketball faced a flurry of incidents involving coach sexual misconduct with players during the 2015-2016 season. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to examine how three distinct cases of coach sex scandal in women’s basketball impacted fan support and team success. To accomplish this purpose, this study examined fans’ message board posts in the months following three incidents at three separate Division I institutions through the lens of attribution theory as well as attendance and win-loss percentage of the programs enduring scandal. Fan responses were different at each institution, suggesting scandals can be perceived differently as contextual factors differ. However, attendance tended to remain stable at all three institutions, indicating women’s basketball fans can be fairly immune to scandal and may support their team regardless of the indiscretion of the coach.