The Women’s NCAA Tournament’s start date could be pushed a week.
The NCAA Division I women’s basketball committee requested a feasibility study of moving the tournament a week later, according to a report released by the NCAA on Thursday.
The committee met three weeks ago and asked its future strategies subcommittee to focus on it. NCAA president Mark Emmert will put together a panel of “key stakeholders” in the membership to review the study.
Among the major issues to be studied is the adjustment of the basketball calendar, including changing the start time of practice, conference tournament schedules and tweaking the recruiting periods.
“Importantly, the committee recognized that among several options that had been raised in conversation over the past years, it was useful to narrow its focus toward the option that most logically should be considered in depth,” NCAA Vice President of Division I Women’s Basketball Sue Donohoe, said in the report. “During the summer meeting, the committee had preliminary discussions with ESPN and they will obviously be further engaged in the dialogue. ESPN has agreed to provide what data they can to help the committee in its decision making but noted that any schedule change may bring about issues for them that must be considered.”
ESPN, which signed an 11-year deal with the NCAA in 2001, is the exclusive TV network for the NCAA Women’s Tournament. The tournament enjoyed an increase in ratings and attendance. ESPN averaged a 1.44 rating for the 2011 tournament, up 14 percent from a 1.26 rating in 2010. The national championship game between Notre Dame and Texas A&M garnered a 2.8 rating, up from 2.67 in 2010.
First and second-round tournament games experienced a 4-percent increase in attendance, while 68,201 fans attended regional games in Dallas, Dayton, Philadelphia and Spokane, the most since 2003.
No timetable has been set, but officials are hoping something could be decided sooner rather than later.
“As a committee, we want to do what is best for women’s basketball,” said Monmouth athletic director Marilyn McNeil. “If this is the best way of enhancing the championship, the sooner a decision is made, the sooner an implementation date can be established.”