Sororities partner with Gophers women’s basketball

Originally an initiative to increase participation at the women’s team games, the partnership is a mutually beneficial partnership for two traditionally separate groups.

Students hold light sticks for a light out before the womens basketball game against Wisconsin on Thursday.  University of Minnesota sororities asked members to attend the game to raise attendance and awareness of Gopher womens sports, with more than 300 attending in response.

Image by Ellen Schmidt

Students hold light sticks for a “light out” before the women’s basketball game against Wisconsin on Thursday. University of Minnesota sororities asked members to attend the game to raise attendance and awareness of Gopher women’s sports, with more than 300 attending in response.

by Eliana Schreiber

What started as an attempt to increase the University of Minnesota’s fan base for Gophers women’s basketball games turned into a full-fledged partnership with the sororities on campus.

The partnership took effect for the first time at a home game at Williams Arena Thursday night, when the Gophers took on the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The partnership will feature the sororities by designating a special section in the stands at each home game this season, said Kaela Juarez, president of Panhellenic Council.

Additionally, Gophers Athletics is giving Panhellenic Council, National Panhellenic Council and Multicultural Greek Council sororities a chance to promote their philanthropies at the games.

The basketball team and the sororities both hope the collaboration will unite women on campus.

The program was inspired by similar partnerships at other universities, like Georgia Tech, where it originated, said Mills Armbruster, assistant director of marketing for Gopher Athletics.

“When I got up here I was surprised that there was nothing… already set in stone,” Armbruster said. “There weren’t even talks about it.”

After moving to the Twin Cities from Atlanta in June, Armbruster said he took it upon himself to create a comparable version of the program for the University.

From there, he decided to focus on basketball first because of the upcoming season, though he said he hopes it will eventually include all women’s teams.

“One of the reasons [Armbruster] brought it up is because, as commonly is what happens in women’s sports, a lot of the time they don’t receive the same fan base that men’s games do,” Juarez said, adding that it’s an unfortunate part of sports culture.

After the game between the Badgers and the Gophers, women’s basketball head coach Marlene Stollings said it was great for the players to see the section filled with the sorority members.

“We’re just really pleased that they came out and supported us tonight,” Stollings said. “I think it’s a relationship that can continue to grow.”

Juarez said the sororities on campus quickly accepted the invitation as an outreach opportunity in the University community.

Juarez said it is part of the Greek community’s mission this year to work with more organizations outside of the Greek sphere.

Additionally, Armbruster said there will be other opportunities for future collaboration on sorority events.

Alpha Phi president Hailey Salden said she sees the program as a mutually beneficial relationship, and a great way for the two groups to come together.

“This is an awesome way to bridge that gap because we all have a lot of similar values,” Salden said.

She said that especially in light of developments in media like the #metoo movement, it’s important to have women supporting other women.

“To take two groups of people that have a significant presence on campus together… just shows the power of women,” Salden said.