The conference officially announced the new format for the postseason tourament as part of its Media Day festivities last Thursday in Los Angeles, though the changes have been public since mid-summer.
The first two rounds of the women’s tournament will remain at USC’s Galen Center, but the women will move to the Staples Center for the semifinal and final games, sharing the court with the Pac-10 men.
This is the first time in the 10-year history of the women’s tournament that the men and women will share a site and the first time that the women will play in a venue that hosts a NBA/WNBA team.
Scott said that he was in favor of making the change after witnessing the poorly attended women’s tournament at Galen Center last year.
“The commitment I made when I came into the Pac-10 is that this just isn’t about football or men’s basketball,” Scott said. “Last year was the first tournament I saw, and while I understood the background of having the women in L.A., with the synergy and how it could benefit both (the men and women), the way it was structured, the women weren’t getting any benefit. I actually felt it had the opposite effect, the women looked worse by comparison.”
Scott, who came to the Pac-10 from the Women’s Tennis Association, said he also understood how much it can benefit the women to put them in the same venue as the men. Scott advocated for combined men’s and women’s events on the tennis tour as well.
“I think the women benefit from playing on the same stage,” Scott said.
But this plan isn’t without its sticking points. There were matters of sponsorship – Pacific Life is the title sponsor of the combined tournament while State Farm had been the title sponsor of the women’s tournament for many years – and also television. Scott said he not only wanted to ensure the availability of television slots for the women’s games, but their quality as well.
“There have been some compromises,” Scott said.
He said conference officials have done a great job of solving the difficult problem of ticket placement, putting together strips of seats for men’s and women’s fans. The women’s games will be general admission, allowing those who attend the opportunity to have quality seats.
Scott is preaching patience with the new format. And in the end it may not be a permanent solution. There are two more years on the current tournament TV deal with Fox Sports Net. A new television deal for the conference – which Scott will begin negotiating by year’s end – could include a much-speculated-upon television network and big changes to the tournament format going forward.
“I don’t think it’s going to be an overnight transformation,” Scott said. “The idea is to improve the student-athlete experience and to try to build as quality an event as possible.
“We have to evaluate everything.”