NCAA expands Women's College World Series by two days to ease game congestion, give players more rest

The Women's College World Series will expand to a nine-day event beginning in 2022, the NCAA announced Wednesday.

The event's expansion by two days eliminates the need for doubleheaders for teams that lose on the first day of the tournament.

Teams that advance to the finals also will get an extra day's rest.

Sandy Atkins, the committee chair and deputy director of athletics at Troy University, said in a statement that the new format prioritizes players' "rest, recovery and preparation" while also allowing for more options when it comes to potential weather delays.

"The engagement from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, particularly the active coaches who have participated in the Women's College World Series, helped identify the day off before the championship series and minimizing doubleheaders as key recommendations to improve the championship," Atkins said.

"That focused feedback helped us narrow in on this alternative format that targets those priorities, while still preserving the format components that allow for a competitive series and quality experience for teams and fans."

Softball coaches have long suggested extending the tournament, much like the Men's College World Series, during which teams usually have a day off between games.

Carol Bruggeman, executive director of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, said adding days to the schedule will go a long way in the ongoing conversation over gender equity in college sports.

An increased attention to the welfare of players also likely contributed to the change in format, she said.

"It was really tough for those teams when they get home late and have to turn around and have media responsibilities and all these other responsibilities and then try and play a game," she said. "They just needed a little more rest and recovery. So, I do think putting the student-athlete first and that experience had a lot to do with it, which we fully support."

It was a delicate balance, she said, expanding the schedule while trying to maintain interest in a tournament that lasts for several days.

"Our sport is still growing; our sport is still thriving," Bruggeman said. "People are watching, people are invested, and because we have that interest, we can expand and people are going to watch and continue to follow even if we add those few extra days, you know.

"So, I just think it's a combination of all those things, and we're just really excited about it. We think it's in the best interest of the student-athletes and our sport, and certainly the coaches are in favor of this new bracket."