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Greg Johnson | | June 29, 2016

Women's basketball: Division I Committee seeks feedback on championship format

The Division I Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee will survey the membership and key stakeholders starting in the next four to six weeks to gauge interest in changes to the format of the sport’s championship.

The Strategic Format Review Subcommittee of the Division I Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee spent the last seven months identifying guiding principles and priorities for potential format changes. The subcommittee reviewed many formats that could require changes to dates, number of teams per site, number of sites per round and number of games per site.

The priorities identified by the subcommittee include student-athlete and team experience; competitive equity; attendance and fan appreciation; broadcasting; expense (operations, team travel and per diem); developing youth engagement; and enhancing the host experience.

The oversight committee, which met Monday and Tuesday in Indianapolis, wants to ascertain the membership’s and key stakeholders’ feelings about possibly playing the Women’s Final Four a week later than it is currently conducted. Timing for preliminary rounds would remain unchanged, providing a week of additional rest for the four teams advancing to the Women’s Final Four.

The Women’s Final Four dates are confirmed through 2020 and will be held the same weekend as the Men’s Final Four, with the women’s semifinals contested on Friday and the championship game on Sunday night. In recent years, the Women’s Final Four has been conducted on a Sunday-Tuesday timeframe.

The potential shift was suggested in hopes of giving the high-profile women’s event its own weekend, with the potential to attract more attendees from the NCAA membership and sponsors.

The oversight committee would also like to receive feedback on the championship’s preliminary rounds.

Oversight committee members want to know how the membership and key stakeholders feel about the top 32 seeds hosting first-round games on campus sites. That would be followed by four eight-team super regionals where the second, third and fourth rounds would be played. Determining the days the super regionals would be held would require further discussion.

Currently, the top 16 seeds host first- and second-round games, followed by four neutral-site regionals on the second weekend of the tournament.

The oversight committee also examined the size, geographic and subdivisional representation of the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee and recommended an increase in the number of regions represented from four to five.  Five regions would provide better balance of the number of institutions and conferences per region as well as provide more accurate geographic representation based on current conference affiliations.  The Division I Council approved the recommendation to introduce this proposal into the 2016-17 legislative cycle.

The Division I Council also approved establishing competition committees for Division I men’s and women’s basketball, respectively.  The competition committee, which reports to the oversight committee, will review student-athlete health and safety, sportsmanship, integrity, game operations, game presentation, technology and statistical trends. It will develop and recommend strategic principles in order to ensure the sport remains true to its original rules, with a focus on making the game more watchable, popular and relevant.

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