Earlier start for tourney eyed

Proposal would eliminate run-ins with men's event

Tournament notes

Women's NCAA Tournament

March 31, 2000|By Christian Ewell and Milton Kent | Christian Ewell and Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA -- An idea long advocated by some may become reality, an ESPN executive said yesterday.

Programming vice president Len DeLuca said earlier dates for the NCAA women's basketball tournament is one possibility for the network, whose seven-year contract to cover the event ends in 2002.

"We're trying to offer the best possible platform," he said during a media briefing.

Nothing has been discussed with the women's basketball committee, according to its chairman, Bernadette McGlade. But the effect of such a move, DeLuca said, would be to "eliminate head-to-head competition with the men's tournament."

Moving the tournament dates up by a few weeks would allow the regional semifinals and finals to be spread over four days while also letting ESPN avoid airing the games against the men's tournament.

As it is, the network runs all 12 regional games on two days, with all four regional finals airing on Monday night. The West Region final between Rutgers and Georgia began at midnight eastern time, meaning Rutgers didn't return to New Jersey until early Wednesday morning.

"We took a risk with games at 12 midnight because it's another open slot," DeLuca said. "There's a downside to that."

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said that she'd be open to such a move if it's impossible for women's basketball to grow otherwise.

"We need to take a look at it in terms of, are we gaining the type of exposure we want for the women's game," she said. "If we feel like we don't want to compete, then I think we have to look at changing the calendar."

Award winners

If the seeds hold out tomorrow, Tennessee forward Tamika Catchings and Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma may butt heads in Sunday night's title game, but they shared a platform yesterday as they accepted the Associated Press Player and Coach of the Year awards, respectively.

Auriemma, whose Huskies have been atop the polls all season, praised Catchings, Tennessee's leading scorer and rebounder, as the only player he would want from another team.

"I don't think I've ever coached against a player who plays as hard as she does and does it the right way. She plays harder than her talent and she's got more talent than anyone," said Auriemma. "I hope she does it the wrong way the next two days. I hope she takes the weekend off."

Auriemma accepted his third AP coaching award. He is the only coach to win more than once. Catchings, a 6-foot-1 junior from Duncanville, Texas, became the third straight Lady Vol to be selected Player of the Year (Chamique Holdsclaw was chosen the previous two years), and added this award to her previous selections as Naismith and U.S Basketball Writers Association player of the year.

Catchings was also named to the prestigious Kodak All-America women's basketball team for a third time, joining teammate Semeka Randall a 5-10 junior guard; Svetlana Abrosimova, a 6-2 junior forward from Connecticut, as well as her teammate, Shea Ralph a 6-foot junior guard; Edwina Brown, a 5-10 senior guard from Texas; Helen Darling, a 5-7 senior guard from Penn State; Katie Douglas, a 6-1 junior guard from Purdue; 5-6 senior guard Tamicha Jackson from Louisiana Tech; Kelly Miller, a 5-10 junior guard from Georgia; and Mississippi State's LaToya Thomas, a 6-2 freshman center.

Much ado about nothing?

If the seeds had held, the coaches of the Final Four teams would have been three men and one woman.

Instead, Georgia and Louisiana Tech fell one game short, leaving Andy Landers and Leon Barmore on the outside, so -- with three women and one man coaching -- discussion fell to whether the male women's basketball coach was headed for extinction.

Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, when asked about it, asked a question himself: "Why is this such a major issue in women's basketball, but almost no other women's sport. It's only women's basketball, because that's where the publicity is, that's where the money is being generated."

Can she or can't she?

To date, only one woman has dunked in an NCAA game (Georgeanne Wells of West Virginia University in 1984) and no one has tried in a tournament game. But Tennessee center Michelle Snow has been doing it regularly in warm-ups and has permission from Summitt to do it, with a proviso.

"She's had the green light all year," said Summitt yesterday. "All I told her was, `Don't miss.' "

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