NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 07: Jeff Walz, head coach of the Louisville Cardinals, speaks with Antonita Slaughter #4 in a game against the California Golden Bears during the National Semifinal game of the 2013 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship at New Orleans Arena on April 7, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Louisville won the game 64-57. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
The white paper written by former head of the WNBA, Val Ackerman, and commissioned by the NCAA about ways to make women's basketball more appealing to a wider audience, has gained some traction in the last week.
Ackerman offered suggestions about the NCAA Tournament schedule (the Final Four should move back to Friday-Sunday), allowing the top 16 seeds to host first- and second-round games, possibly reducing the tournament field, and whether the tourney should shift to a different date altogether to avoid getting lost in the men's spectacle.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma spoke highly of Ackerman's work, but noted that her research won't matter if nothing changes. He's been outspoken about lowering the rim to increase shooting percentages, and by extension, more points.
Another option: Ackerman suggested making the game less physical. It's an idea Louisville coach Jeff Walz supports.
"If there is anything we can do to create more offense, it's a positive thing for the game," Walz told the Hartford Courant's John Altavilla. "But let's look at it this way. When I play UConn, if Geno is OK not guarding my players, I will be OK not guarding his. We can shoot it pretty good if no one is on us. If UConn is willing to do that, that's fine with me. But I don't think he is.
"If rules like that are implemented, then I have to sit down as a coach and try to figure out what to do to make it tougher to score. If I let them cut freely, they are going to score a bunch of points. That's hard for me to consider."
Another suggestion from Ackerman: reducing scholarships from 15 to 13 to create more parity in the women's game. It's an idea that might not sit well with coaches that have spent their careers building a program. Like, say, Auriemma. But the eight-time national champion said last week that change for the better can include some short-term pains.
"We got to make some decisions for what is best for the game and people are going to have to maybe suck it up and say ‘this might not be in my best interest but its in the best interest of the game and we need to get moving on that,'" Auriemma said last week. "We’ve hit a little bit of a plateau. I think we’ve got a great product but we’re just like any other product, if you don’t keep working to make it better at some point you start to lose that little thing you have that is so unique. I know one of the things we’ve talked about, was little things."