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Most-watched NCAA volleyball match ever: 2023 continues to smash records

Wisconsin volleyball celebrates after a point against Nebraska on Oct. 21. (Dylan Widger/USA TODAY Sports)

College volleyball continues to surge in the TV ratings.

Sunday’s match between No. 2 Wisconsin and Minnesota became the most-watched in NCAA history, averaging 1.66 million viewers. The Badgers and Gophers got a boost from a prime spot on FOX, filling the 4 p.m. ET NFL window for regions without a football game in that slot. In total, 76% of the United States received the match on FOX.

The previous viewership record for an NCAA volleyball match came in 2021, when 1.19 million viewers tuned in to watch Wisconsin win the national championship over Nebraska. And the previous regular-season viewership record came just last week, when Wisconsin lost to Nebraska — and averaged 612,000 viewers on Big Ten Network, more than the Cornhuskers football game the same day.

“How many times have we seen when you give opportunities to elite women’s sports that they show up?” Minnesota head coach Keegan Cook told the Star Tribune. “You have to have opportunity in order to meet opportunity … elated to see the response.”

Wisconsin swept Minnesota 3-0 on Sunday, but that didn’t deter viewers. The match averaged more viewers than Formula 1 racing on ABC, the Premier League on NBC and NFL Countdown on ESPN.

Earlier this year, 518,000 viewers tuned in to watch Nebraska’s outdoor volleyball match in late August, which set the all-time attendance record for women’s sports.