Geno Auriemma: Changes not needed

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic -- Even with new legislation allowing women's basketball teams to begin practice earlier, Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma doesn't plan to change his starting date.

Under a new NCAA rule this year, teams can begin practice 40 days before their first game. They still are allowed only 30 practices -- the same number they were allotted under the old system.

"It wasn't my idea, trust me. Everyone else was adamant," said Auriemma, who is the president of the women's basketball coaches association. "They wanted 40 days. I was like, 'Go ahead, knock yourselves out.' I'm not changing anything. I'm planning on our season going into April, so I don't need to start any earlier."

With the busy fall he's had coaching the U.S. women's national team to a gold medal at the world championships, he could use a few days off. The new rule applies only to women's programs. The men didn't adopt it and will begin on their traditional date.

Like Connecticut, fellow 2010 Final Four participant Oklahoma doesn't plan to begin early, either. The Sooners won't start practice until Oct. 18.

Under the new guidelines, any day that a team has a workout, whether it's weightlifting or running, counts as a practice day even if players never spend any time on the court with a ball.

"The 40-day practice rule is a perfect example of the unintended consequences that can result in the creation of new legislation," Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale told The Associated Press in an e-mail. "The spirit behind the legislation came from a group of coaches who felt that they did not have adequate time to prepare their teams before their opening contests."

While Connecticut and Oklahoma won't be taking advantage of the earlier start, many schools will. New Mexico State actually began practice Sunday. Coach Darin Spence was one of the coaches who believes that the new schedule will allow him more of a chance to prepare for the season.

"We aren't as rushed to get things in that will benefit as we move in to the early non-conference games," Spence wrote in an e-mail. "In the past we were way too rushed and felt we had to get stuff in without having enough time to really work on them and get better."

Still, the bigger impact to him was that it could cut down on injuries.

"Women's basketball always has a high number of injuries, especially knees," he said. "The new schedule may give our players more rest time early on. I believe this to be the best part of the rule."

Rutgers will also get an early jump on practice to the delight of coach C. Vivian Stringer. The Scarlet Knights will begin Wednesday.

"I think it was an excellent decision by the NCAA and I am excited about the opportunity to begin practice. For coaches similar to me, it is the best thing that could have happened," she said. "It is long overdue and it can do nothing but better the women's game."

The Scarlet Knights will open up at California on Nov. 12.