Former WNBA president Val Ackerman has conducted interviews with stakeholders in women’s basketball, and the report she gave the NCAA has been released. Among her recommendations:
Many of Ackerman’s interviews included discussions about the Division I women’s tournament and whether changes might be needed to improve attendance and visibility.
As a first step, Ackerman recommends switching the Women’s Final Four dates back to a Friday/Sunday format instead of the current Sunday/Tuesday format. Many of the people she spoke with believe it is burdensome for fans to give up two weeknights and return home on a Wednesday to attend the Women’s Final Four under the current format.
Another of Ackerman’s recommendations is to have the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee explore using a two-site, super-regional format for the second week of the tournament when the regional semifinals and finals take place, rather than the current four-site format.
The concept calls for sending eight teams to each of the regionals, which could create more of a festival atmosphere, potentially attract more fans and cut costs. This would mean conducting four regional semifinals and two regional finals at the same site, ideally in cities where interest in women’s basketball has proven to be high.
She also said there was sentiment within the membership to allow the top 16 seeds in the tournament to host first- and second-round games.
Following four decades of growth under Title IX, Ackerman believes women’s basketball has advanced to the point where key decision-makers should now adopt more aggressive sales, marketing and promotional strategies so the sport can generate bigger crowds and, in turn, better financial results.
Ackerman noted that grassroots marketing is vital to the success of women’s college basketball and that many interviewees saw a pressing need for coaches to remain actively involved in cultivating fan support in their local markets.
Ackerman believes the time is right for women’s college basketball to conduct a rigorous self-examination and chart out its next phase of growth.
I don’t disagree with one thing she said.
And I wish she was still WNBA president.