Work in Sports
NCAA could go to neutral sites by 2001
Posted: Wednesday March 08, 2000 12:35 PM
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- The NCAA women's basketball tournament could start having neutral sites for first- and second-round games as early as next season.
A proposal to select those sites in advance has been approved by the NCAA women's basketball committee and the championship committee and is now before the management council, which meets in April.
The proposal calls for the new format to start with the 2001 tournament.
"Certainly the management council or the NCAA board of directors could change any proposal that comes in from any sports committee," Bernadette McGlade, who chairs the basketball committee, said Tuesday. "I don't know if it will stay the same, but that's what we recommended."
Currently, the first- and second-round games are played in the arenas of the 16 highest-seeded teams in the tournament. Those sites are not known until pairings are announced on Selection Sunday, five days before the first games.
NCAA officials always have been uncomfortable with that setup because of the home court advantage -- all 16 home teams advanced to the regional semifinals last year -- but felt it was necessary to attract crowds.
If the new setup is adopted, the 16 sites would be put up for bid and announced several months in advance. Many of the traditional powers that draw big crowds, such as Connecticut, Tennessee and Texas Tech, likely would bid for games and still would end up playing at home.
But games also could be placed in municipal arenas that are not the home court for college teams or they could be awarded to schools that might not make the tournament, thus ensuring a neutral court for all participants. A school could not serve as a host for more than two years in a row.
McGlade, an assistant commissioner for the Atlantic Coast Conference, said awarding the sites in advance would give those locations time to promote the games and draw crowds.
"It's the same thing with football bowl games," she said. "They have no idea who is going to be in the bowl game, but ticket sales go on. They're selling to the fan. That's where we are in women's basketball. We're selling to fans.
"There's a lot of fans of the sport out there and they're no longer just going to see the home team play."
McGlade also said that when the next television contract is negotiated, the committee will urge that the regional semifinals and finals be played on four days instead of two.
ESPN, which holds the contract through the 2002 tournament, shows all eight regional semifinals on a Saturday and the four regional finals on Monday. In the men's tournament, the semifinals are split between a Thursday and Friday and the finals between Saturday and Sunday.
"Eight semifinals and four finals back to back certainly is a tough day, even for the best of basketball fans," McGlade said. "I think that is one of the priorities we will have the next time we negotiate the contract."
Len DeLuca, senior vice president for program development, said that point would be negotiable.
"When we roll up our sleeves with the NCAA women's representatives, we will deeply look at ways to increase the potential audience, and one of them clearly is working on that second weekend of the tournament," DeLuca said.
DeLuca noted that one reason the schedule evolved the way it has was to avoid competing with the men's games and the Academy Awards presentations.
"Those are two fairly significant objects," he said.