SBD/September 24, 2013/Colleges

Major Changes Recommended For NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament

One venue could soon host the Final Four and the super-regionals
NCAA Women's Basketball Committee members yesterday at the White Paper Summit in Indianapolis agreed on recommendations to "alter the look" of the Women's NCAA Tournament and Women’s Final Four, according to John Altavilla of the HARTFORD COURANT. It was recommended that the Women’s Final Four "be moved a weekend later, after completion of the men’s Final Four, with a Friday-Sunday format." Also, the top 16 seeds "should host first- and second-round games" for future tournaments. There will be "two super regionals feeding into the Women’s Final Four, instead of the current four-regional format." These super regionals "would host on a semi-permanent basis in the same city, which would allow a community a chance to market the event." The super regionals and Women’s Final Four "would be hosted in the same locations in multiple years on a rotating basis, as well as conducting championships for all three divisions on the same weekend" for the '16 Women’s Final Four, held in Indianapolis. All recommendations made yesterday "can only move forward through the NCAA governance structure." NCAA VP/Women’s Basketball Championships Anucha Browne Sanders said, "We got after some of the sensitive and critical issues facing our game. There was a strong consensus that we can't continue to do what we're doing" (COURANT.com, 9/23). In Connecticut, Rich Elliott notes UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma was "among a 35-person group consisting of high-profile coaches, including Hartford's Jennifer Rizzotti, conference representatives, school athletics administrators, an on-court official (Dee Kantner), television executives and NCAA committee members" who met for the summit. Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman "delivered the Division I Women's Basketball White Paper in June that triggered much discussion" (CONNECTICUT POST, 9/24).

TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN: The AP's Doug Feinberg noted moving the first two rounds of the tournament to the top seeds' home court "could help attendance." The NCAA last season "averaged 5,466 for all tournament rounds, which was 17th since the tournament began" in '82. However, making that change "would most likely lose a school like Gonzaga, which has been one of the most successful sites over the past few seasons." Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves: "I'm a little disappointed in it if they go that way. The NCAA has to decide what are we doing? What's important? Is it the atmosphere, the show on TV? If they do go that way it will probably take some drama out of the dramaless rounds" (AP, 9/23). Ackerman following the meeting said, "I'm still trying to digest it. We had a great group -- this was a significant part of the women's basketball brain trust all in one place." ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel noted Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw and Tennessee coach Holly Warlick both "spoke in favor" of moving the Final Four to the weekend after the Men's Final Four. It would mean the Women's Final Four is "held the same weekend as the Masters," but that is a "daytime event, whereas the basketball is in the evening." Warlick said, "I think being the same weekend of the guys' Final Four, we get kind of lost." However, others at the summit "expressed concern that viewers will have essentially 'checked out' of watching collegiate basketball a week after the men's Final Four." Meanwhile, returning to a Friday-Sunday format "seemed a popular idea" (ESPN.com, 9/23).
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