The NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Committee is moving quickly to enhance championship play, based on the recommendations from Val Ackerman's white paper presented nationally just over a week ago.

The committee will immediately allow regional host institutions to play on their home courts, and will also establish a women's basketball stakeholders' summit at the 2014 Women's Final Four. Longer range enhancements the committee will immediately pursue include a review of the competitive format for all rounds of the championship beginning in 2015, including:

  • Shifting of weekend playing dates for the Women's Final Four from Sunday-Tuesday to Friday-Sunday, with preliminary round game days aligned accordingly
  • Possible first- and second-round byes for as many as the top-32 seeds, so that lower-seeded teams play each other in the earlier rounds
  • Combining the Women's Final Four with the Division II and Division III Women's Basketball Championships in Indianapolis in the Summer Olympics year of 2016;

Additional white paper recommendations beyond the committee purview will be addressed or reviewed through the NCAA governance structure.

"There is great value in Val's recommendations and we spent a considerable amount of time during our meetings in discussion of the issues affecting the championship, while balancing decisions as to what is best for the student-athletes," said Carolayne Henry, chair of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Committee and senior associate commissioner and senior woman administrator at the Mountain West Conference. "Decisions reached by the committee this week are just the tip of the iceberg as we set a prioritization schedule for next best steps for the game and championship."

Regional hosting
The committee voted to allow a host institution to play on its home court during the regional rounds beginning with the 2014 championship. The current format does not allow for schools to play on home courts in the regionals. The rationale behind the proposed change is to improve attendance, enhance the broadcast look of the games, identify additional hosting sites for regional rounds of play and create a better in-arena atmosphere for the student-athletes.

A criterion involved in this change is that institutions will not be allowed to host first- and second-rounds as well as regionals within the same championship season.

Also, the committee preference will be for host institutions to be limited to hosting a regional no more than two consecutive years, regardless of whether the same or a different competition venue is utilized.

The bid process for hosting first-, second- and regional rounds for the 2014 and 2015 championship begins on July 15.

Move to Friday/Sunday playing dates
The committee supported Ackerman's recommendation of switching the Women's Final Four dates back to a Friday/Sunday format instead of the current Sunday/Tuesday format as early as the 2015 championship, with the preliminary round days being reviewed as well. Ackerman's white paper spoke to the current playing dates being a burden for fans to give up two weeknights and return home on a Wednesday if they traveled to women's basketball championship games.

Championship format changes
The committee will explore a variety of championship format options going forward for the 64 participating institutions that includes lower-seeded teams potentially playing each other in the first two rounds, with the top 32 seeds earning byes. Currently, championship host sites are predetermined.

"We felt that the championship was best served if we initiated the changes that would impact the 2014 championship format in a non-invasive way, while looking to make significant changes beginning in 2015," said Henry. "Next steps for the committee will be to build a variety of championship models while coming to a resolution by the committee's fall meeting this October."

Combining of DI, DII and DIII championships
While much remains to be done to coordinate having all three women's basketball championship divisions participate at the same site, the committee endorsed this taking place as early as 2016 in Indianapolis. This timing would seek to coincide with the excitement around the next Summer Olympics.

Basketball summit planned
The committee wants to pursue Ackerman's recommendation that an annual convention of key stakeholders in women's college basketball be conducted at the Women's Final Four, so that business and basketball issues can be better vetted and comprehensive growth strategies can be devised. Stakeholders would include former women's basketball student-athletes, current and former women's basketball coaches, athletics and campus administrators, television network representatives, national office staff and outside sports representatives. Planning has begun for the summit to be held in Nashville during the 2014 Women's Final Four week.