Could pushing back the women's NCAA tournament by a week bring better exposure to the sport since it would have less overlap with the men's tournament?
On Thursday, that's what the NCAA Division I women's basketball committee announced it would study. Pushing back the tournament could also mean adjusting dates like the start of practice and also for recruiting periods and conference tournaments. So, it's complicated. But the benefits of giving the women's Final Four its own week of the spotlight after the men's champion is crowned could be worth it.
From the NCAA:
NCAA President Mark Emmert will assemble a panel of key stakeholders from the membership to review the study and forward a recommendation.
After reviewing data, survey and research information, the committee cited potential benefits to the championship including less head-to-head competition with other NCAA championships, better attendance, more corporate champion/partner activations, greater overall media exposure and expanding growth opportunities for the game.
Already, there is concern that this idea might not work and actually make things worse, according to USA Today, which spoke to Baylor women's coach Kim Mulkey.
"I wasn't for it when it was initially brought up," Mulkey said. "I think women's basketball fans are going to follow the tournament no matter when it's held.
"If this is trying to attract more fans of men's basketball, why don't they move our season back a week and hold our tournament before the men's? I don't want basketball fans to just turn away once the men's final is held. I'm afraid they'd just move on to the Masters or whatever the next big thing would be."
The study does allow the NCAA to do some outside-the-box thinking while it comes up with a way to help women's basketball progress. It's a question of if not enough people are paying attention to the women because their focus is on the men and whether or not giving the women's tourney it's own week to showcase its athletes and story lines would make a difference.
"As a committee, we want to do what is best for women’s basketball," Monmouth athletic director and committee chair Marilyn McNeil, said in a statement. "If this is the best way of enhancing the championship, the sooner a decision is made, the sooner an implementation date can be established."