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Greg Johnson | | March 28, 2014

'White Paper Summit' recommendations include tournament format change


INDIANAPOLIS -- Participants in the Women’s Basketball White Paper Summit came out with a consensus opinion by a majority vote that the Women’s Final Four should be moved a weekend later with a Friday-Sunday format and that the top 16 seeds should host first- and second-round games for future Division I women’s basketball championships.

The group also supported the concept of having two super regionals feeding into the Women’s Final Four, instead of the current four-regional format. There was also support to have these super regionals hosted on a semi-permanent basis in the same city, which would allow a community a chance to market the event on more than a one-time basis.

There was a tremendous amount of energy in the room. 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.
-- Anucha Browne

Other recommendations reached by consensus vote were a hosting format where 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 2016 Women’s Final Four, which will be held in Indianapolis.  

Since this is an ad-hoc group, all recommendations made out of the summit can only move forward through the NCAA governance structure.

The summit, which took place at the NCAA national office on Monday, brought together conference representatives, campus athletics administrators, women’s basketball head coaches, an on-court official, television executives and other stakeholders of the game.

The gathering of these 35 individuals was intended to allow for frank and candid discussions about the future of women’s basketball.

“There was a tremendous amount of energy in the room,” NCAA Vice President of Women’s Basketball Anucha Browne 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.”

The goal of the group was to move forward with ideas that came out of the white paper written by Big East Conference Commissioner Val Ackerman, who was hired as a consultant -- before her current appointment -- by the NCAA championships and alliances staff to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the sport.

“This was a good start on what’s next,” Ackerman added. “There are clearly a lot of issues and areas that we are trying to tackle. Part of the process will be what pace will the change be, and how much can be done in the short term and long term. This easily could have spilled over to a second and third day.”

One of the topics that drew a lot of conversation was the state of the game on the court. Many around the room addressed what they thought was the most important aspect of the game that needed to be enhanced.

Flow of the game and freedom of movement were the most common answers. Protecting the shooters and dribblers were also brought into the discussion.

Other on-court items that were discussed were going from two halves to four quarters, using a 24-second shot clock and widening the lane.

Another topic that drew a lot of discussion centered on the need for skill development of youth basketball and coaches at that level.

Summit participants believe there needs to be more communication with USA Basketball and explore the possibility of creating a certification process for coaches.

This has been talked about among Women’s Basketball Coaches Association members. They would like to see some professional development initiatives to ensure that the game is being taught properly.

“Coaches have to be better,” said Geno Auriemma, who is the head coach at Connecticut and the U.S. Olympic Team. “We have to teach the game better. We have a lot of coaches in this country, but we don’t have a lot of teachers. The players we’re getting need a lot of teaching. We have to work hard to make sure we can do that.”

One of the critiques of the current format in summer basketball is that too much attention is being paid to game competition and not enough on skill development.

Some of the coaches in the room suggested that the NCAA should certify skill-development events to help send a message that this is important to the evaluation process for college coaches.

The participants in the meeting also discussed the possibility of reducing scholarships from 15 to 13, but after a prolonged debate, it was decided that the limit should remain where it currently stands. This was mainly due to the injury factor in women’s basketball.

Overall, most left the meeting believing this was a good step for future discussion of the direction the game should be headed.

“I’ve been involved in the sport for 40-plus years, and this to me is one of the highlights in terms of bringing together the stakeholders in the sport,” said former legendary Texas coach Jody Conradt. “This was an environment where we can talk openly about the state of the game.”

Invitees to the NCAA Women’s Basketball White Paper Summit:
Val Ackerman, Big East Conference commissioner   Bernadette McGlade, Atlantic 10 Conference commissioner
Geno Auriemma, Connecticut head coach   Muffet McGraw, Notre Dame head coach
Doug Bruno, DePaul head coach   Marilyn McNeil, Monmouth athletics director
Barbara Burke, Eastern Illinois athletics director (chair, Women’s Basketball Rules Committee)   Kelly Mehrtens, Maryland deputy athletics director
Carolyn Campbell-McGovern, Ivy League deputy executive director (chair, Division I Women’s Basketball Issues Committee)   Jane Miller, Virginia senior associate athletics director (chair Division I Championships/Sports Management Cabinet)
Leslie Claybrook, Southeastern Conference assistant commissioner   M. Dianne Murphy, Columbia athletics director
Sherri Coale, Oklahoma head coach   Patti Phillips, NACWAA chief executive officer
Jody Conradt, Texas (retired) head coach   Shannon Reynolds, Women’s Basketball Coaches Association chief operating officer
Tiffany Daniels, Southeastern Conference associate commissioner   Jennifer Rizzotti, Hartford head coach
Chris Dawson, Pac-12 Conference associate commissioner   Carolyn Schlie-Femovich, Patriot League executive director
Danielle Donehew, American Athletic Conference associate commissioner   Sue Semrau, Florida State head coach
Rosalyn Durant, ESPN vice president of college sports   Carol Stiff, ESPN vice president content program and integration
Nora Lynn Finch, Atlantic Coast Conference senior associate commissioner   C. Vivian Stringer, Rutgers head coach
Carolayne Henry, Mountain West Conference senior associate commissioner (chair, Division I Women’s Basketball Committee)   Tara VanDerveer, Stanford head coach
Connie Hurlbut, Western Athletic Conference senior associate commissioner   Holly Warlick, Tennessee head coach
Dee Kantner, game official (NCAA, WNBA)   Coquese Washington, Penn State head coach
Donna Lopiano, Sports Management Resources president   Jeff Walz, Louisville head coach


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