UTA got a glimpse of the exposure the WNBA could bring the university Monday when the franchise formerly known as the Tulsa Shock was introduced as the Dallas Wings.
The court at College Park Center was scattered with reporters after the unveiling as members of the Dallas Wings eagerly answered questions about the teams’ relocation from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to UTA, its new home.
Now, UTA is hoping to sustain the same exposure it experienced Monday, as it could spill over to the university’s men’s and women’s basketball programs, raising interest in college basketball in Arlington.
“It’ll bring a lot of attention, and the fact that we’re ranked second in conference right now, I think that helps,” UTA junior guard Kamy Cole said. “Us being good, I think that will help people, like, OK, we can come watch them too.”
Given the attention the Dallas Wings are likely to receive next season when Skylar Diggins and the team open the season at the College Park Center, Wings head coach Fred Williams said UTA should benefit too when its season opens in 2016.
“I think the more energy and effort you give into something, you get a lot of things back,” Williams said. “I think with us, we’ve proven that in a lot of areas we’ve been in, especially for me as a coach, but also the players. They’ve got their own following of a crowd of people. That’s going to help them make this a very successful venue.”
Attendance for home basketball games has been on the minds of UTA Athletics since the College Park Center opened in 2012, and average attendance for a full season had yet to peak above 2,000 until last season.
But with the Dallas Wings now occupying the same court as the Mavericks, university President Vistasp Karbhari is hopeful that the publicity the Wings receive in the WNBA will translate to interest in UTA basketball.
“Think of it. Every time that they play over here, the scene on TV or reporter on radio, it’ll always be that they’re playing on the UTA campus,” Karbhari said. “In terms of recruitment, in terms of being able to tell the world about our programs and the excellent that’s going on over here, that sort of publicity is something you couldn’t even pay for.”
The partnership between UTA and the WNBA was announced during the summer and became official in July.
Karbhari said the partnership takes UTA to a new level, as very few universities share their home venues with professional sports teams, he said.
“This team could’ve played anywhere in the Metroplex, and it chose UTA,” Karbhari said. “It didn’t just choose UTA for the stadium, it also chose it for the university, and that, in itself, is a very strong message. It’s a fabulous partnership, and this means a lot to us.”