2.4.09

ITS AMATEUR SPORTS. IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MONEY. Read this post on the new format for the womens' basketball tournament (via Women's Hoops).

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, in response to concerns about attendance at early-round games, has announced changes to the siting principles for the Division I women’s basketball championship, effective with the 2010 tournament.

Under the new principles, the NCAA no longer will assign teams to 16 pre-determined sites for the first two rounds. Instead, the thirty-two first round games will be hosted by the higher-seeded team, and second-round games will be assigned to the location of the higher surviving seed. Regional semifinals and finals also will be played on the highest surviving seeds’ home courts.

Jaclyn Silar, Chair of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee explained the change in a press conference late Tuesday. “We took a look at the attendance at the predetermined sites the last two years and realized that, except for Notre Dame, the only ones with any kind of decent crowds were the ones where the home teams were playing,” she said. “If you think about it, it’s a logical progression from eight sites to sixteen to thirty-two over the last several tournaments.”

When questioned about the logistical challenges of setting up games at so many sites, then having sixteen teams travel on short notice, Jane Meyer, the incoming chair of the committee, said “We think we can deal with that. We’re going to pick the top eight seeds in each region in January, which will give ESPN and the schools plenty of time to get ready. They’re all going to be pledged to secrecy, so we don’t think anything will leak out.”

That's the way it used to be. At one time, the tournament had a field of 48. Twice, Northern Illinois hosted a first-round game (one they earned, another where Louisiana Tech's paperwork wasn't in order) and played the second round game at Purdue. I don't recall whether Purdue, the winner of both of those games, also hosted the round of sixteen.

What the new format does, however, is reinforce the them-that-has-gets structure of the tournament. That works, however, if the objective is revenue.

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