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Former WNBA President Val Ackerman in a report submitted last week advised the NCAA with "a series of ideas" that would help grow women's college basketball, including "moving the Final Four back to a Friday-Sunday format, exploring a two-site super regional for the second week of the NCAA tournament and returning to the top 16 teams host the first two rounds," according to Doug Feinberg of the AP. In Ackerman's proposal, the "eight-team super regionals would be awarded to sites for three years at a time." The women's basketball committee will "meet next week in Nashville, Tenn., site of the 2014 Final Four, to discuss Ackerman's paper." Its members will be the "ones to determine which, if any, of the recommendations they will implement." While changing the dates of the Final Four "may be more difficult for 2014, some of the other suggestions could be done for next year without too much trouble." Many of Ackerman's ideas "aimed at boosting attendance, which has become stagnant over the past few years." Ackerman suggested that in '15 and beyond the NCAA tournament "could even have the top 32 teams host opening round games." A longer-term idea that Ackerman "advocates for, if the NCAA decides to keep the women's Final Four separate from the men is to establish a multi-year site for the championship similar" to the College World Series. She also "explored the possibility of moving the entire tournament dates" (AP, 6/18). Ackerman said, "The goal isn't necessarily to make money. The prevailing thought is that women's basketball can do better -- commercializing, attracting new fans. The sport lends itself to being something much bigger than what it is" (USATODAY.com, 6/17). Ackerman said that the "'sport needs a jolt' in order to spark growth and there is 'a tremendous appetite for change' in the way the sport is played, marketed and managed" (Lafayette JOURNAL & COURIER, 6/18).
MORE TO DO: In N.Y., Jere Longman notes some "important matters were not explored, like how to address lesbianism more openly." Ackerman still has "made a serious study of the need to broaden the appeal of women’s college basketball beyond older fans and families to more students and casual fans, to enhance officiating and improve governance, to increase scoring, and to boost revenue in the sport when the average operating deficit for teams from the top conferences is more than" $2M. She gave the NCAA "several paths to consider." One is to "simulate tennis and hold a Grand Slam of basketball, playing the men’s and women’s Final Fours simultaneously in the same city on a trial basis." Another is to "take advantage of the international appeal of women’s basketball by holding the Final Four in a country like Russia or China." Ackerman said that one way to "create more competitive balance ... was to reduce scholarships from 15 to 13 per university," and use the "two leftover scholarships for other women’s sports" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/18). ESPNW's Michelle Smith wrote the question was "never whether the women's game needed a shakeup." It has been "whether the NCAA would be willing to do it on a wholesale level." Smith: "Now we will find out" (ESPNW.com, 6/17).
Univ. of Minnesota AD Norwood Teague after his first year on the job is "presiding over a department in transition, and experiencing the problems inherent in such makeovers," according to Chip Scoggins of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Teague has "made sweeping changes in top-level personnel, one major coaching hire, suffered through one public relations crisis and has several times delayed unveiling a long-term facilities plan." He said, "It’s been probably the quickest year of my life. I’m running really hard trying to meet a lot of needs and be a lot of places." Teague has "exhibited a certain aggressiveness and willingness to shake things up in his desire to create a 'national brand.'" He also has "overhauled his management team by hiring and/or promoting five new administrators," including two from his staff at VCU, while "letting go several holdovers from Joel Maturi’s staff." He "has 'totally rebuilt' his development department in order to breathe life into disjointed fundraising efforts." After Teague drew the ire of UM fans by canceling a home-and-home football series versus UNC, he "invited more than 50 disgruntled fans to his office." His "legacy will be determined by his ability to raise money and build facilities, two areas that are intertwined." The school "needs a basketball practice facility, a new indoor football facility and a new academic center." Teague estimated that the entire project could "cost between" $80-125M. The unveiling of the facilities master plan has been "pushed back several times as the athletic department attempts to tackle a massive project at a university that has come under heavy criticism for its spending habits." Teague "fits the mold of the modern athletic director: equal parts CEO and socialite." Fundraising "remains his bailiwick and a key distinction between him and his predecessor" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 6/16).
CHANGING ALL THE TIME: In Denver, John Henderson wrote of the evolving role of college ADs, "Rising budgets. A nonstop facilities arms race. Shrinking support from the state. An athletic director must have a skill set that goes well beyond hiring coaches." Utah AD Chris Hill said, "Business helps, but not at the expense of relationships with coaches. People are marked by who they hire." Seven Pac-12 ADs have been "hired within the last five years." Every one but Stanford's Bernard Muir, who was an AD at two other schools, "has a business or strictly fundraising background." Arizona AD Greg Byrne said, "(Fundraising) has always been important but the pressure (is) on you to fundraise successfully, not only to support your annual budget through your annual gifts but also because you are trying to find a way to pay for millions and millions of dollars of infrastructure support." Washington AD Scott Woodward "knows a business acumen is required" for the job. He said, "It's very important. You need to be able to read a spreadsheet. You need to understand financing, especially when you're doing big capital projects. You have to have some background in capital construction and you obviously have to have experience in fundraising" (DENVER POST, 6/16).