Does women's college basketball need fixing? Yes, according to former WNBA president Val Ackerman.
Ackerman has been with the NCAA since last November, and after six months of examining the game, she submitted a report to the organization with suggestions on how improvements can be implemented to upgrade women's college hoops as we know it. The NCAA specifically brought her in to do this.
After looking at what needs adjusting, in her report Ackerman implores the NCAA to bump up the Final Four for women to a Friday-Sunday format, instead of the Sunday-Tuesday it's used in recent years. There was also a suggestion to use two sites for the four regionals instead of four cities hosting. The so-called "super regional" would mean the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight would combine twice as many teams, inherently delivering more fans of those teams to the area.
Ackerman also floated the idea of giving the top 16 teams in the tournament hosting duty for the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. This is a tactic used in the past by the women's tournament. While it would give the higher-seeded teams built-in advantages to winning due to home court, it would also drive local fans to arenas and boost box office revenue.
"A lot of the ideas came from the membership," Ackerman said, according to the Associated Press. "When I went into this a piece of the process involved interviewing those who were associated with the sport. My questions were open ended. What do you like? What would you change if you could? My sense was that ideas they've been kicking around for a long time. Some may not be new I just tried to corral them."
The report comes just before the women's basketball committee meeting in Nashville, Tenn., next week. The committee can choose to use and vote on any of Ackerman's suggestions. If so, they would likely be voting on changes to the women's tournament that would take effect come 2015 or beyond. She also recommended women from Division I, II and III play their basketball championships in the same city; the men did this in Atlanta for the first time in April and it was considered a success.
The AP quotes average women's tournament attendance at 5,466 last season, on the lower half of attendance figures for the NCAA in the past 30 years.
"At first glance, I liked some of the proposals," said MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor told the AP. "I personally favor going to the top 32 seeds for the first round. It's a great way to get a lot of local interest at a wide range of schools. It also can save money by having 32 teams travel in the first round instead of 48."
Playing the Final Four in the same city as the men? Another idea put forth by Ackerman. She also considered following a model similar to the college baseball world series -- always having the tournament it in one city.
As for the regular season, Ackerman's report advised to cut down regular-season games and reduce scholarships on teams from 15 to 13 in order to disperse talent. And that's not all. A 24-second clock and 10-minute quarters were also part of her advisory report, which included hundreds of interviews with people involved in collegiate athletics.