Update: After this story was published, the NCAA women’s basketball staff received feedback from regional hosts of the 2016 Division I Women’s Basketball Championship noting that due to other commitments they will not be able to make changes to the competition days requested by the Division I Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee. Therefore, 2016 regionals will be played Friday, March 25, and Sunday, March 27, in Lexington, Kentucky, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The other two regionals will be played Saturday, March 26, and Monday, March 28, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Dallas.
The Division I Women’s Basketball Championship is returning to a familiar format.
The Division I Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee this week decided a shift back to the Saturday-Monday, Sunday-Tuesday format for preliminary rounds of the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship, while maintaining Sunday-Tuesday playing days for the Women’s Final Four, was the best model for promoting the sport and championship going forward.
The committee, which met Monday and Tuesday in Indianapolis, has requested that the NCAA women’s basketball staff implement the changes as soon as the 2016 championship. The 2016 Women’s Final Four is slated to be played April 3-5, which is already on a Sunday-Tuesday schedule. The Division I Council supported the recommendations.
“The committee made the day shift change in response to a significant amount of feedback from stakeholders in the game looking to improve in-person attendance and improve television ratings, without sacrificing one for the other,” said Jean Lenti Ponsetto, chair of the committee and director of athletics at DePaul University. “Along with these changes, we will continue to conduct a strategic format review.”
The Division I Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee, which consists of conference and campus athletics administrators, two current women’s basketball student-athletes and a head coach, noted that the 2015 Division I Women’s Basketball Championship preliminary rounds, played on a Friday-Sunday and Saturday-Monday format, faced numerous timing obstacles. Those included early start times on Friday and Monday as well as head-to-head television windows opposite the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, NBA and Major League Baseball games, with each competing entity limiting in-person attendance and viewership for the women’s championship.
The oversight committee also decided to keep the format that establishes the top 16 seeds as hosts for the first and second rounds and keeps the regional sites at predetermined neutral venues.
In the new Division I governance structure, the oversight committees for each sport have been tasked with strategic direction and long-term planning for the sport’s championship that includes academic, financial, television and legal matters, legislation, recruiting, student-athlete well-being issues, championship format and policies and procedures for championship selections. The oversight committees also create criteria for committee members on the corresponding championship sport, competition/rules and advancement committees, all of which report to the oversight committee.