The Division I Women’s Basketball Championship will stick with its current format.
After reviewing survey results from NCAA member schools, in which almost 80 percent of Division I conferences felt the tournament should not change its format, the Division I Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee on Tuesday decided it will instead focus on ways to enhance the championship.
The two main questions the committee asked all 32 Division I conferences were: Whether there was an appetite to move the Women’s Final Four back a week, so it would be separated from the men’s Final Four, and whether the tournament should have 32 teams host first-round games on campus sites followed by four eight-team super regionals.
In each case, the membership overwhelmingly indicated the current format is the best option for the championship. Survey results showed conferences prefer the focus to be on the student-athlete and team experience, attendance and fan appreciation, broadcasting and competitive equity.
“The committee felt the championship format survey was a positive step, with the membership feedback showing a large majority favor maintaining the current format and improving the championship,” said Jean Lenti Ponsetto, chair of the Division I Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee and director of athletics at DePaul after the committee’s meeting at the NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. “People feel the championship is in a terrific place. The next step for this committee will be to take this championship in its current format and look for ways to enhance it going forward.”
ESPN and ESPN2 will broadcast all 63 games of the tournament this spring for the 15th consecutive year. It will also mark the 22nd year that ESPN will broadcast the championship game. The Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee plans to continue working closely with ESPN and the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship Committee to find ways to improve the championship’s in-venue attendance and television ratings.
In an effort to place an increased focus on a weekend celebration, the 2017 Women’s Final Four will be played with a Friday-Sunday format for the first time in 14 years. Since 2004, the Women’s Final Four semifinals have been held on Sunday night with the championship game played on Tuesday night.