Ex-WNBA chief suggests changes to NCAA basketball
The WNBA's first president suggested that women's college basketball needs to make changes if the sport is to grow.
Val Ackerman was hired by the NCAA in November to assess the state of the women's game.
In a report submitted to the NCAA last week, Ackerman advised 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 a format in which the top 16 teams host the first two rounds. In Ackerman's proposal, the eight-team super regionals would be awarded to sites for three years at a time.
Those ideas would be aimed at boosting attendance and some of them could be implemented by 2014 as the NCAA hasn't announced sites yet for the first two rounds or the regionals. The NCAA has already locked in the Final Four for Nashville, Tenn., next year and it would be difficult, though possible, for the city to accommodate the change in dates.
Attendance growth has become stagnant over the past few years. Last season the NCAA averaged 5,466 for all its tournament rounds which was 17th since the tournament began in 1982.
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 baseball world series in Omaha.
Ackerman conducted hundreds of interviews over the past six months with coaches, college presidents, athletic directors and other advocates of women's basketball. Besides addressing the NCAA tournament, she also looked at the regular season.
Ackerman said there should be at least two fewer regular-season games to help alleviate some of the wear and tear and allow the student-athlete to have a more balanced educational experience. She suggested reducing the number of scholarships from 15 to 13 to help spread the talent out to more schools.
On a rules front, Ackerman thinks colleges should play with a 24-second shot clock and use four 10-minute quarters instead of two halves. This past season teams shot 39 percent from the field that resulted in an all-time low in scoring of 62.1 points a game. That's down nearly eight points from the first year of NCAA play in 1981-82.
Other areas she'd like addressed include conference tournaments and officiating.
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