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HomeSportsNCAA women's tournament brass may mull changes this summer

NCAA women’s tournament brass may mull changes this summer

NCAA women's basketball tournament leaders are pushing to review potential changes to the tournament's format this summer, a year earlier than originally planned.

The women's basketball committee plans to reconsider its decision to hold the first two rounds of games for top-ranked teams at campus venues after the 2025 tournament and hold the second weekend of games at two venues instead of four. Vice president of women's basketball Lynn Holzman said she believes they have seen enough data on the growth of the sport to consider changes this year.

“Given the trajectory of success we've experienced over the past few years, I don't see any reason to wait to begin a review,” Holzman told ESPN on Tuesday afternoon. “The governance structure has to approve (the review), but that's our requirement for this tournament. I'm confident that will happen.”

The change to the first-round format could help avoid logistical problems, such as those that arose in the first two rounds of this year's tournament when Gonzaga hosted it. A lack of available hotel space has forced several teams competing in Spokane, Wash., to live more than 30 miles from Gonzaga's campus in Coul d'Alene, Idaho. While in Idaho, members of the Utah basketball team were harassed by men flying Confederate flags in their trucks and yelling racist slurs.

The incident is one of several issues plaguing the star-studded event, which is on track to break ratings and attendance records for the 42-year-old event. Holzman said the NCAA has responded to these “serious issues” by addressing them as quickly as possible.

In Portland, the team played several games where one 3-point line was nine inches shorter than the other. A referee was replaced during a game between Chattanooga and North Carolina State after the NCAA discovered the official failed to disclose she had a master's degree from Chattanooga. Notre Dame All-American Hannah Hidalgo missed several minutes of the team's loss to Oregon State last week, with referees ejecting her from the game until her team's trainers removed her Nose ring worn throughout the season and the first two rounds. championship.

The turn of events has frustrated coaches like Stanford's Tara VanDerveer, whose team played on the court in Portland with the 3-point line drawn wrong.

“An error of this magnitude overshadowed two incredible weekends of basketball that featured amazing teams and incredible individual performances,” VanDerveer said in a statement provided to ESPN. This is unacceptable and extremely disturbing.”

Holzman said the issues were a series of isolated incidents and not the result of a lack of needed resources at the women's tournament. Three years ago, the NCAA came under heavy criticism for stark differences in the treatment of players in the men's and women's tournaments. A review conducted in the following months by attorney Roberta Kaplan found that the NCAA had serious systemic problems with gender inequality.

The NCAA has since spent an additional $14 million annually on the women's tournament, according to an NCAA spokesman. Asked why the women's event suffered more quality control incidents than the men's event, Holzman said the problems this year were unfortunate but were not caused by differences in the way the two events were run or funded.

For example, she said, the vendor responsible for installing the court and its three-point line in Portland is the same company used in the men's tournament. Holzman said the incident was an “isolated human error.” She also said that two years ago, the NCAA changed its policy to ensure equal referee pay budgets for the men's and women's tournaments, which was not the case ahead of a gender equity review in 2021. Holzman said the NCAA uses the same review process and technology to screen referees for both tournaments.

She said she could not determine whether the referee would face any long-term repercussions for failing to disclose her relationship with Chattanooga.

Holzman said NCAA officials addressed the issues as soon as they were discovered at this year's tournament. In Idaho, she said, NCAA staff worked with the Gonzaga administration to move all teams remaining in Idaho to different hotels within 12 hours of learning of the racist harassment incident in Utah. Utah State athletic director Mark Harlan said he plans to let NCAA leadership know that being so far away from the field of play is “unacceptable,” which he said was “a factor in the impact of this incident.”

The NCAA Women's Basketball Committee may deny a school the opportunity to host a championship home game if the school is unable to provide suitable hotel accommodations within a 30-mile drive of the game site, but may grant exceptions as it deems appropriate. Spokane hosted the men's first-round game and major volleyball tournament the same week as the women's game, and by the time the Zags were announced as campus hosts, they were running out of hotel space.

Asked if the committee had considered finding another venue for those games, Holzman said it was “unacceptable for an incident like this to occur” but that Spokane “has been a successful site for the men's and women's championships for many years.” .

Hosting sites must sign a form stating that they provide a safe environment free of discrimination for all players. Spokane is scheduled to host the regional tournament for next year's girls championship. Holzman did not say whether this year's events would affect those plans.

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