Despite criticism, early-round format will be back next year

40 schools are bidding for 1st-, 2nd-round games

Women's NCAA notebook

College Basketball

April 08, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA - Despite overwhelming criticism of the format from coaches, the chair of the NCAA's women's basketball committee says the organization will stay with the plan to award first- and second-round sites to predetermined locations for next year's tournament.

Cheryl Marra, a senior associate athletic director at Wisconsin, said that while the committee hopes to eventually stage the entire tournament on neutral courts, awarding the first and second rounds to 16 schools that bid for them is a good idea for now.

"I don't believe we will stay still forever," said Marra, who's in her first year as chair. "We have over 40 institutions that have bid on this. So, I think having gone through this experience, they are starting to realize what a great benefit it is to have this on your campus."

The committee previously awarded the top four seeds in each of the four regions first- and second-round games, and while many higher seeds got home games this year, some did not. All four of the coaches who reached the national semifinals criticized predetermined sites, with Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma going as far as to call the plan "stupid."

"I can clearly appreciate the coaches wanting everything set up clearly to their advantage, as we all would when we go through something," Marra said. "There is a bigger picture. And as a committee, we measure and we address all of that."

Tuning in to Sunday

In its first season in a Sunday-Tuesday format, the women's Final Four appears to have struck television ratings gold.

ESPN announced that overnight ratings for Sunday's semifinal games in the nation's 55 metered markets were 26 percent higher than last year's semifinals, which were played on a Friday.

The average for the two games was a 2.42 household rating, up from the 2002 average of 1.92. The ratings for this year's first game, pitting Tennessee against Duke, were up 41 percent from last year's first game, between Oklahoma and Duke. The ratings for the second game Sunday, between Texas and Oklahoma, were 17 percent higher than for last year's game between Connecticut and Tennessee, which will be this season's title game matchup.

The rating measures the percentage of households in the country tuned to a particular program.

Like Yankees-Red Sox

If Auriemma is to be believed, the era of good feelings between him and fellow Philadelphia native and Big East coach Harry Perretta of Villanova is over.

Perretta taught Tennessee coach Pat Summitt his motion offense in the offseason. Considering the rivalry between Tennessee and Connecticut, Perretta's actions were nothing short of high treason, according to Auriemma, who said last month that Perretta had left "the hot tub" with him for "the evil empire" to be with "an older woman."

"She took this whole thing the wrong way," Auriemma said of Summitt yesterday. "I wasn't trying to get at Pat. I was just trying to slam Harry. The guy is in the tournament for the first time in 30 years, and he wants to make it look like he just landed on the moon. He's driving me nuts, that guy."

About his "evil empire" remark, Auriemma said: "I live in Connecticut. I'm a Red Sox fan. If you talk about Tennessee, they are the Yankees, and Pat is George Steinbrenner. We make fun of it. It's just a way to have fun. Throwing snowballs is part of what you do in New England. We are just throwing snowballs at each other."

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