Too often, the women’s game is pushed to the side for their male counterparts. When it comes to March Madness, there is a possibility of a format change on the women’s side, so their games don’t overlap with the men’s during the Final Four. The Associated Press reported the NCAA is exploring pushing the women’s Final Four back a week along with other changes to the format of the tournament.
"The survey has a variety of implications," said Anucha Browne, the NCAA vice president for women's basketball in a phone interview Tuesday. "It's an opportunity to see if the current format is where we should stay or look into doing something different.
We want to talk to the practitioners on campus — the senior women's associates, the coaches, we hope there is some feedback from the student athletes. Student-athlete input is pretty important."
The AP also gave a survey to the women’s oversight committee, schools and conferences – which is due next week on Dec. 2 -- with the proposed changes that could come as early as 2019 if approved:
1. Opening round at 32 sites
2. Second round and regional rounds at the same location
3. Push the Final Four back a week (creating a bye week in the schedule)
With the pushed back date of the Final Four, the women would play during the same week as the Masters.
But even with the due date of the survey around the corner, there will not be any immediate changes, as the regional sites and Final Four locations are booked until 2018.
"For sure it's going to take us a couple meetings to work through all the details without having a good idea what the results are going to look like," said oversight committee chair Jean Lenti Ponsetto (athletic director at DePaul).
"I think there seems to be a perspective in membership that we need to do something in women's basketball. The championship isn't broken and women's basketball is in a good place," Browne said. "We want to deliver a strong crowd and going to a Friday-Sunday format this year will be an opportunity to see how that plays out."
So for you fans who already have your tickets booked for the Final Four at the end of the season this year in Texas, you’re safe and don’t have to worry about changing travel plans.
"I like playing the following weekend," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said of the current format to the AP. "At the same time, I see what we're trying to do. What's best for women's basketball for attendance? That's my only issue with that move. It's a big break. That would be the biggest break in the entire season, including Christmas. We don't have a break that long at any time when the season starts up. It would be something completely different."
If these changes, along with others which were not disclosed, are approved what will happen with the exposure to the women’s college game? Which direction will the ratings go?
A big concern is what would happen to viewers if the Final Four does get pushed back a week. ESPN – home of the tournament championship since 1996 – has estimated the viewership would decrease by 30 percent, per the Associated Press.
Carol Stiff, ESPN’s vice president of women’s sporting programming, told the AP, “Our research has shown that moving the NCAA women's Final Four to Masters weekend would negatively impact ratings, and would cause a loss of the cross-promotional benefits of the men's Final Four."
For now, the waiting game starts as surveys are still being completed and then from there sorting out the results. A spokesman for ESPN has spoken on how she feels the proposed changes could affect the game, so in time we will all see if the format will stay the same or be altered.