Monday, July 15, 2013

The white paper and the women's game: What needs to be done

So we're told the women's game is in trouble, has plateaued and there is an enormous appetite for change, this according to the Val Ackerman report better known as the white paper.

We asked our coaches their thoughts and we have a few of our own. First, they have the floor.

From James Madison's Kenny Brooks: "In a nutshell, I thought it made for interesting reading. It was hard for me to take the report as a whole seriously because as soon as she was reeled me in with good suggestions she would make an outrageous one. I don't think administrators or fans will travel to Europe to see the Final Four nor do I want to inspect my kids body for new tattoos everyday. The adoption of a 24-second shot clock in my opinion would make the game sloppy."

From Radford's Mike McGuire: "We obviously need to take control of our game and become more defined in what we want to become. We need a clear direction and leadership in our game. We have lost focus on our game and as a result we have become stagnant ... from the grassroots to the collegiate level. Over the past few years, I am not sure the focus has been on our game and making it the best product possible."

From Liberty's Carey Green: "It’s great to have somebody with that much basketball knowledge to be a forerunner in reevaluating the direction that women’s basketball has been going over the past several years. I agree with her assessment that it’s time to get a clear mission and purpose for the game. Restructuring efforts will serve to be productive for the game. How effective her recommendations will be is to be determined, primarily because, based on her data, the overwhelming majority of sports enthusiasm is male-dominated. With the primary American sports being football, men’s basketball and baseball, the reality is, 'Where does the game of women’s basketball fit in that niche?' It’s interesting that she evaluated the seasons (fall, spring, etc.) of competition. The format and marketing of the NCAA Tournament, with so many options like a permanent site, dual tournament with men’s basketball or a dual tournament with Division II and III at the same site, with the purpose of trying to stabilize and maximize the event, are all interesting concepts that need to be evaluated. I also agree with her concepts of conference tournaments."

As for our thoughts ...

*One immediate thought: Ackerman talked to coaches, administrators, TV execs, college presidents, NCAA office presidents. ... what about fans of the games and those who aren't fans of the game? Seems like those are two populations deserving of input as well as players and former players. Why not talk to some real people?

*Her "Hertitage" track notes the need for the game to be more fan friendly. We couldn't agree more. We attended the regional in Norfolk, and what a shame it is that the NCAA keeps the athletes at such arm's length from the fans. There is no opportunity to watch practice as there used to be during the national tournament (unless you're ESPN). Skylar Diggins, among the most popular female athletes in the nation, was in town. No autograph session. No time to wish hometown girl Elizabeth Williams well or shake her hand. The teams were all business, a mandate the NCAA seems comfortable with.

*We need parity, right? Surprise! We have it. The sport has good teams like James Madison, Hampton, Marist, Bowling Green, Dayton ... all of whom would have had good chances for "upsets" if given a fair shake. Ask Brooks or David Six who wants to come to their gym to play. If you're not in a BCS conference, you're an outcast in this sport, and nobody wants to play you on your floor because, yowsa! What if they lose?

*Ackerman talks about the need for a younger demographic. We couldn't agree more. Where are the students at women's game, and how do we get them in the building? Is it as simple as having Hotdog night at Virginia? We've always like the idea of involving student clubs or frats in building the fan base. Challenge a select number of student organizations to put butts in the seats and award the "winner" a substantial prize.

*Ackerman favors the top 32 teams hosting, and we're in favor of it, too. The current format compromises the integrity of the bracket too frequently, with lower seeds hosting higher seeds, creating an unfair advantage. As always, neutral courts is the ideal, but we're not there yet, and the current system produces too many advantages for lower seeded teams.

*Two super regionals? Can we get one of them in the Commonwealth? (We're guessing one will always be in Storrs/Fairfield/Hartford/nebulous Connecticut city.

*We have other ideas ... we elaborated on them in an earlier post -- and we're planning another post later this week about what could be done to the actual game to create a better product.

What do you think? Let us know.

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