SAN ANTONIO - For its first time in a big stadium, the women's Final Four did all right, says the chair of the women's Division I basketball committee.
Maryalice Jeremiah, who heads the nine-member panel that selects the tournament field and votes on Final Four locations, said the decision to bring this year's championship to a large domed stadium came with some trepidation, but the move has paid off.
"There were a lot of doubters that this could happen, that we could put 30,000 people in here," said Jeremiah before last night's championship game. "We could not be happier with what has happened this weekend. It's historic. It's the most people ever to watch a women's [collegiate] game."
Though the 1988 and '89 Final Fours were played in the 10,000 seat Tacoma (Wash.) Dome, the women's Final Four had never been staged in a building the size of the Alamodome, and Jeremiah, who is the senior associate athletic director at Cal State Fullerton, said she wasn't sure the game was ready for a stadium this large.
Next year's Final Four will be played at Atlanta's Georgia Dome, the site of this year's men's Final Four, and Jeremiah believes the experience of this tournament should pay off next year.
"I wish we weren't going two years in a row in a dome, but I think it will be good now," said Jeremiah. "I'm OK about it now because we've done it. I wanted to make sure that this was something that we had done and that it was successful. We didn't know if it was going to be successful until we had done it, and now we've done it and I'm OK about it."
Oldfield to Maryland
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported in today's editions that Minnesota coach Brenda Oldfield has been offered the head coaching job at Maryland.
Oldfield, who was named the Associated Press Coach of the Year on Thursday, guided the Golden Gophers to a 22-8 season, the school's best NCAA record ever and a share of second place in the Big Ten, one season after the team had gone 8-20.
Oldfield, 31, was the youngest coach in the conference and would replace Chris Weller, who retired after the season after 27 years in College Park.
The two coaches were asked about the relative attractiveness of their teams and whether the women's game needed sexiness to sell it to a mostly male audience.
"I think that when women can go out and compete at the level that both of our teams compete at, diving on the floor, making athletic plays, just the level of athleticism that exists within both of our squads, and then they can leave the court and present themselves as they did at the salute dinner the other night and look like the beautiful women that they are, I think, yeah, that's definitely good for the game," said Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale. "I don't know that there's any sex appeal going on here, but I think it's terrific when women can compete and be athletes and still be women."
Said Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma: "You know, that kind of stuff does sell on television, doesn't it? It does in tennis, doesn't it? I don't know where it translates in basketball. I hope that it's bigger than that. I hope it's the quality of the play. I hope it's the level of execution on the teams. I hope it's the passion and intensity level that comes off the sidelines. Do those other things add to it? I'm sure for the casual fan or for the person tuning in for the first time, they say, oh, that looks cute. I think cute and perky only get you so far, you know? At some point, you're going to have to have some substance to you."