Originally published September 3, 1999.
A 290-pound offensive tackle from the University of Maryland stopped blocking a teammate during warm-ups at Franklin Field last night and looked past the end zone. He kept looking. You could imagine his thoughts: Hey, that’s Mia Hamm.
The sports world had another first last night. Women’s soccer players appeared at a college football game to pump up the gate. It worked because the players appearing at the Temple-Maryland game were some of the biggest stars in their white-hot sport.
Hamm and her U.S. Women’s World Cup teammates Julie Foudy and Kristine Lilly are used to drawing a crowd by now, and at least 2,500 people were in the stands behind one end zone an hour before the game to see the three put on a soccer demonstration.
This being Philadelphia, Hamm also got booed for maybe the first time ever in this country. She acknowledged the playful harassment, raising her arms after she bowled over a little girl during halftime of the football game, when the three U.S. stars took on some youth players from the crowd.
The crowd was with the youngsters all the way. Hamm got booed again when she scored the game-tying goal shortly before the Temple and Maryland players began coming out again.
But there was the usual adoration when the soccer players hit the field before the game, not all from girls. There were little boys wearing Hamm shirts. The under-12-year-old Palumbo Panthers from South Philadelphia were there. They were all boys and one female teammate, Rebecca Yuska, who acknowledged that she was the Mia Hamm of the Panthers. The boys said they were staying for the football game, but were there for the soccer players.
The game drew a crowd of 25,322. Asked how many people had bought tickets through the soccer promotion, Temple athletic director Dave O’Brien - noting that season tickets for football are up considerably this year, from a low of 1,500 up to over 6,500 - said with a smile, “This is a football game. We haven’t done any accounting on that or sold any tickets for soccer. '”
One estimate had more than 3,000 tickets sold because of the appearance of the soccer players. (All Temple football tickets are $5. )
“I was psyched,”' Foudy said of the chance to be here, showing off her own marketing skills. “We’re huge college football fans. I’ve heard a lot about Temple’s program.”
There is an interesting aspect to this marketing marriage: In 1995, the American Football Coaches Association board of trustees called for a full-scale Congressional inquiry of the application and implementation of Title IX and its effect on football and men's sports. Yet here were some of the greatest living examples of how Title IX has changed the sporting landscape.
“What people need to understand about Title IX, we’re not fighting to take anything away from the men,”' Lilly said. “What it’s about is equality.”
Nobody was saying how much the soccer players were paid, although the figure of $25,000 for the three was floating around. Hamm also accepted a $10,000 contribution from the Temple University Health System Foundation for her Mia Hamm Foundation and its work on bone marrow diseases. Her brother, Garrett, died in 1997 from complications related to aplastic anemia. Temple president Peter Liacouras said he was impressed with Hamm, how substantial a person she was. In accepting the donation, she talked about how the courage it takes to play a game doesn’t compare to the courage her brother showed.
Before the game, Hamm also said that it’s nice for everyone that she’s not getting the overwhelming amount of attention anymore, that it’s being spread around. (One example: goalkeeper Briana Scurry will be a judge at the Miss America pageant.) Hamm said that, in one way, celebrity was easier for her, since her fame grew gradually. Young reserve teammates suddenly find themselves recognized everywhere.