NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The women’s basketball world has come together in the Music City to not only crown a champion, but also to discuss issues facing the sport.
The NCAA is hosting a women’s basketball summit Monday based on Big East commissioner Val Ackerman’s paper she put together and submitted in June. The summit will hit three main areas - youth basketball, the business of basketball and the state of women’s basketball.
The coaches association held its first-ever marketing seminar Friday to figure out ways to help grow the game with panels to share ideas about fundraising, building a fan base and promoting the different programs.
“The symposium name - ‘It’s Our Game!’ - reflects our feeling of responsibility for, not possessiveness of, the sport,” said Beth Bass, the CEO of the WBCA. “As the professional association of women’s and girls’ basketball, we’re committed to doing everything we can to improve and grow our game.”
UConn coach Geno Auriemma won’t have time to partake in either seminar as he is focused on getting his team ready to try and win a record ninth national championship. Still, he does have his own ideas on how to help the game he’s been involved with for the past 33 years grow.
Auriemma feels that using the European soccer Premier League as a model, women’s basketball should have the top six or eight teams play each other every season, that could showcase the best the NCAA has to offer.
“Put together the best teams and have them play each other every year,” he said. “You can play your way in or out of the league. I already know some sponsors who would back the plan and also I’m sure TV would love to have those matchups.”
A league like that would greatly benefit UConn, which plays in the American Athletic Conference. The Huskies ran through the conference in the inaugural season. The league is only getting worse next season with the departure of second-place Louisville to the ACC and fourth-place Rutgers to the Big Ten.
While it may not be feasible to get that sort of league up and running, doing something similar to the men’s basketball Champions Classic could be doable.
Create a doubleheader with the top four women’s basketball teams such as UConn, Notre Dame, Tennessee and Stanford. Have them play once in November, once in December and once in January where the matchups and venues would switch up.
“We need to do something,” Auriemma said. “At least people are talking about it.”
While neither the Premier League nor the doubleheader are in the works yet, some of the top women’s programs are slated to be involved in an event honoring Nike co-founder Phil Knight in celebration of his 80th birthday in 2017.
It would be an eight-team tournament with Nike schools UConn, Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and Gonzaga among others potentially competing.
But that would be a one-year event as opposed to a long-term solution.