Women's tourney may switch dates NCAA, coaches seek own niche


The quest to get women's basketball out of the shadows of the men's game never seems to end, and one of the latest attempts centers on the possibility of moving the women's tournament out of direct competition with the more popular men's event.

Judy Holland, chairwoman of the NCAA Division I women's basketball committee, said the NCAA and the Women's Basketball Coaches Association are in the preliminary stages of moving the tournament to February so it will not conflict with the men's tournament.

"There are a lot of things we'd have to do for that to happen and we're just looking at it for now, but it's an intriguing possibility," Holland said yesterday during a teleconference conducted by CBS, which will televise this weekend's Final Four.

Ohio State coach Nancy Darsch says moving the tournament is a good idea but says that making it later is the best option. That is a notion Holland was cool to.

Darsch said: "If we move it, I'd prefer April. Maybe we could capture the attention of those primed for March Madness. Then we'd be the show. Once you eliminate the men, you've still got a lot of people who are still interested in college basketball, period."

Holland said the NCAA will not likely move the women's Final Four to the same site as the men's, as it did in 1989, when the men's national semifinals were held in Seattle while the women's were in Tacoma, Wash.

"That was an experiment that demonstrated that we needed to be in our own city," Holland said. "We're trying to establish our own identity and not be an afterthought."

Still, the women's game, by all accounts, is growing in popularity but not as quickly as its participants would like.

The Final Four, to be played at the 16,510-seat Omni in Atlanta on Saturday and Sunday, is sold out, the second time in the 11 years the NCAA has sponsored a women's tournament that the national semifinals have been sold out in advance.

In addition, Holland said, the four participating schools -- Ohio State, Iowa, Texas Tech and Vanderbilt -- have accepted all of their allotment of 540 tickets, a first.

Texas Tech coach Marsha Sharp said more than 4,000 people greeted the Red Raiders when they returned from the West Regional in Missoula, Mont., Saturday night, and people slept on the sidewalk in front of the ticket office for a chance at Final Four tickets.

Darsch said the Buckeyes got sellouts of more than 13,200 at St. John Arena for their regular-season finale against Iowa and their second-round NCAA tournament game with Rutgers.

But, in other respects, particularly in terms of media coverage, the women's tournament continues to pale in comparison to the men's, which this year will be played at the 65,000-seat Superdome in New Orleans.

The number of reporters covering the men's Final Four likely will be double that of the women's tournament, and the CBS affiliate in Atlanta will join the network's coverage of Saturday's game in progress after its noon newscast.

"I think the game's come a long way, but it's still the media that's holding them back," said Ann Meyers, an All-American at UCLA and CBS' analyst for this weekend's games. "There's been more exposure because coaches have started to speak out because they're irritated with the media and rightfully so. CBS still could do a better job, and so could the local stations and newspapers."

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