President keeps UConn on hold before delivering END OF THE ROAD NCAA TOURNAMENT WOMEN'S FINAL FOUR

MINNEAPOLIS — MINNEAPOLIS -- The Connecticut women's basketball team has been bemoaning the lack of respect for its unbeaten season. So it figured that when it beat Tennessee, 70-64, for its first national title and got the first call from a president to a victorious women's team, the Huskies still got no respect.

President Clinton, a graduate of Big East rival Georgetown, placed a call to Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma from Little Rock, Ark., but Auriemma was on hold for about five minutes while the president's staff patched him through.


Auriemma said the Huskies attempted to visit the White House in January when they played Georgetown, but couldn't get in because tours weren't being offered that day.

"He [Clinton] said he was happy for the season we had and that he was a very interested viewer because it looks like our kids enjoy playing together and they're a fun group to be around," said Auriemma. "He said he was looking forward to seeing us when we come down. That really meant a lot to us."


Tourney changes coming

Expect big changes for next year's tournament, the first year of a new seven-year contract with ESPN.

Linda Bruno, the chair of the Division I women's basketball committee, said yesterday that the tournament format will be altered to accommodate ESPN's desire to minimize competition with the men's tournament.

Next year's first- and second-round games will be played on either Friday and Sunday or Saturday and Monday, depending on the request of the host school.

The semifinals in all four regions will be held on Saturday, and all four regional finals will take place on Monday. The Final Four goes back to the Friday-Sunday format it had before CBS obtained the rights to the entire men's tournament and the women's national semifinals.

CBS required the women to play their semifinals and finals on consecutive days, while in the men's Final Four, the winning teams in the semifinals have a day off before the finals.

"The day off between the semifinals and finals was very critical for our coaches. I didn't understand that at first, but I do now," said Bruno, commissioner of the Big East Conference.

Bruno said the committee will likely keep this year's format in which the top four seeds in each regional play host to three other teams in their respective buildings for first- and second-round games, rather than a totally neutral format.


"This is a good step for now, but I don't think we're ready for a totally neutral set-up yet," said Bruno.

Quick hits

Connecticut is the first Northeast team to win an NCAA women's national championship and has won 65 of its past 68 games. . . . Connecticut placed a record four players -- Rebecca Lobo, Kara Wolters, Jennifer Rizzotti and Jamelle Elliott -- on the all-Final Four team, along with Tennessee's Nikki McCray. Lobo was named Most Outstanding Player for the Final Four.