Important changes to NCAAW tournament could be made this summer

Women's college basketball is on top of the world right now, and the NCAA has taken notice.

Lynn Holzman, the NCAA's vice president for women's basketball, is pushing for the women's basketball committee to meet this summer, a year ahead of schedule, to discuss possible changes to the tournament format. She believes the growing popularity of the sport necessitates they make these changes now instead of waiting until summer 2025.

"Given the trajectory of success we've experienced over the last couple years, I see no reason to wait to start that review," Holzman told ESPN on Tuesday afternoon. "The governance structure has to approve [a review], but that is our ask coming out of this championship. I believe that will take place."

So what would those changes be? According to ESPN, the committee in 2025 is set to address the current format of holding rounds 1 and 2 of the tournament on the campuses of 16 highly ranked teams, with rounds 3 and 4 consolidated into two sites. The men's tournament is run differently, with the biggest difference being in the first round: the men's tournament holds rounds 1 and 2 at eight neutral sites that are unaffiliated with any teams playing in the tournament.

Embarrassing incidents at women's tourney

The men's and women's tournaments have become more and more similar in recent years as the NCAA has attempted to bridge the considerable equity gap. Once overlooked and underfunded, now the women's tourney is making enormous headlines, and the NCAA contends that it's also no longer underfunded. An NCAA spokesperson told ESPN that they've spent "an additional $14 million per year" on the women's tournament since 2021, when the organization was nationally embarrassed by the deep inequalities between the men's and women's tournament that were made public.

But it hasn't been enough to prevent even more embarrassing incidents. Here's a rundown of what's happened over the last two weeks.

A referee for the NC State-Chattanooga contest was removed at halftime because they'd received a graduate degree from Chattanooga but failed to disclose it. A different referee forced Notre Dame star Hannah Hidalgo to miss several minutes of a game to remove her nose ring, which she had worn all season with no issues.

While staying in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho to compete in the first round at Gonzaga's campus in Spokane, Wash., Utah's team was subject to "racial hate crimes" and had to be moved to a different hotel. Coeur d'Alene has a history of racial hate groups, and it was already so far from the game site that Gonzaga had to get a special waiver to put them there. (Utah was moved to a different hotel after they reported the incident.)

One of the three-point lines was incorrectly drawn at the Portland site (used for rounds 3 and 4) which the NCAA itself didn't even notice — according to the Washington Post, a fan first noticed the discrepancy, indicating that not a single NCAA employee at that venue checked the work of the contractor hired to draw the lines. The teams still due to play after the issue was discovered elected to continue anyway, since waiting for the lines to be redrawn would mean giving up the prized Sunday night slot on ESPN.

Millions upon millions of people have been watching women's basketball lately. The ratings for Monday's showdown between LSU and Iowa shattered the record for most-watched NCAAW game of all-time. The sport is full of young stars and the outrageous talent level has resulted in some of the most entertaining games in recent memory. All the NCAA has to do is stop ruining it. A meeting this summer could possibly get them closer to accomplishing that goal.

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