NCAA D-I Women's Basketball Committee Mulls Future of Championships

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At its annual fall meeting last week in Dallas, the Division I Women's Basketball Committee discussed the future of the championship and attended bid presentations by representatives from prospective Women's Final Four cities vying to host the world's premier women's basketball event in 2027 through 2031.

In addition, the committee spent considerable time during the meeting in preparation for the 2022-23 regular season and championship. Members discussed and finalized schedules around the two-site regional format and Women's Final Four weekend, which in 2023 will include all three divisional women's basketball championships being decided in Dallas over a three-day period.

The committee also concluded an eight-month comprehensive review of the championship that included exploration of the possibility of moving the semifinal and championship games to an alternate weekend on the championship calendar. During the review process, which included membership feedback and a third-party review, the committee studied the NCAA Women's Final Four scheduling, broadcast landscape including where sports viewers are focused, cross promotion and marketing opportunities.

It was ultimately decided by the committee that, for the foreseeable future, the Women's Final Four should continue to use a Friday and Sunday scheduling model and should remain during the same weekend as the Men's Final Four.

"The Women's Final Four is the premier women's basketball event in the world and has shown tremendous growth in recent years," said Lisa Peterson, chair of the committee and senior associate commissioner for sports management with the Pac-12 Conference. "The committee likes where the championship is at currently and decided the current format provides for proven and increased fan accessibility, engagement, and growth through a variety of platforms, including attendance, broadcast, traditional media and social media. The student-athlete experience at the women's championship is providing an impactful and equitable experience from tournament invitation to the conclusion of competition.

"In its current position on the sporting calendar, men's and women's college basketball are the focus of the entire sports world in March and early April," Peterson said. "Continuing to leverage college basketball being the primary focus provides the greatest continued growth opportunities relative to exposure, fan engagement and access, and brand value."

Peterson also stressed that it is incumbent on women's basketball leaders to continue being attentive to future challenges and changes that could impact the championship.

"With the committee set to announce sites for the 2027-31 Women's Final Four, it will be imperative for the committee and all women's basketball stakeholders to continue being diligent going forward in monitoring the effect of external factors on the championship, including future broadcast partner agreements, to ensure the championship and Women's Final Four maintain its premier status," Peterson said.

In addition, during the fall meeting, the committee received final presentations from the seven cities bidding to host the Women's Final Four from 2027 to 2031 (see story). 

Committee members also met with the Dallas Local Organizing Committee, which provided an update on its planning efforts for the 2023 Women's Final Four and the jointly held Division II and III national title games. All games will be March 31 to April 2 in the American Airlines Center.

As part of its preparation for the 2022-23 regular season and championship, the committee also heard from representatives from ESPN, who provided a detailed look at broadcast coverage plans for the upcoming season. The 68 teams participating in the 2023 championship will be announced on Selection Sunday, March 12, as part of the ESPN selection show. For the 20th consecutive year, an ESPN channel will broadcast all games of the 2023 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship, with ABC airing the 2023 NCAA national championship game for the first time.

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