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Saturday, February 24, 2024
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Women’s College Volleyball Notches Most-Watched Game Ever

  • Sunday’s Wisconsin-Minnesota match on Fox was the most-watched women’s college volleyball match ever by over a million viewers.
  • Continuing the sport’s unprecedented popularity, Nebraska’s Lexi Rodriguez has signed on as Panini’s first-ever female NIL athlete.
Wisconsin middle blocker Carter Booth celebrates with Anna Smrek and Temi Thomas-Ailara during a match with Minnesota on Sunday Oct. 29, 2023 at the UW Field House in Madison, Wisconsin.
Mark Stewart / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Women’s college volleyball is experiencing unprecedented popularity.

On Sunday, Fox put two matchups in NFL-adjacent slots: Those receiving 1 p.m. ET Fox NFL games would get the Wisconsin-Minnesota match in the late window, while those receiving the 4 p.m. ET game — Cleveland Browns at Seattle Seahawks — would get Ohio State-Michigan in the early window.

The experiment was a huge success, as the Badgers-Gophers match averaged 1.66 million viewers — making it the most-watched college volleyball game of all time by over a million viewers.

The previous record was set just over a week prior when Wisconsin took on Nebraska to an audience of 612,000 viewers on Big Ten Network — more viewers than Nebraska’s football game got on the same network on the same day.

Nebraska — the current No. 1 team in the country after its victory over Wisconsin — has been one of the leaders in women’s college volleyball’s enormous surge.

On Monday, Panini announced that Nebraska junior DS/libero Lexi Rodriguez signed on as the company’s first-ever female NIL athlete. Her first card for Panini is part of its Instant collection.

“There’s lots of deals out there for men’s sports, so I am super excited that Panini is providing opportunities for women’s sports in NIL and I’m grateful they have chosen me to be the first,” Rodriguez said. “This is just another opportunity that little girls will see that can give them hope for the future of women’s sports and being able to collect their favorite players.”

Rodriguez joins a Panini NIL roster that includes University of Texas QBs Quinn Ewers and Arch Manning, University of Washington QB Michael Penix Jr., and top MLB prospects Dylan Crews and Paul Skenes.

The Huskers’ Aug. 30 match against in-state rival Nebraska-Omaha attracted 92,003 fans to Lincoln’s Memorial Stadium — making it reportedly the most-attended women’s sports event in history. This was after Nebraska and Wisconsin took turns setting the previous regular-season volleyball attendance records at 15,797 and 16,833, respectively.

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