Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Source: Philadelphia Making "Agressive Bid" For NCAA WBB Tourney Regional & Final Four

By Mel Greenberg

Could an NCAA women’s basketball tournament regional and Final Four be coming back to Philadelphia, one of which might occur as soon as this season?

Part of the answer, if not all of it, to that question will be known in a few weeks when the NCAA announces the winning bids and regional alignment for this season.

But with Saint Joseph’s as the lead pursuer to be the official host institution, the city is “making an aggressive move” to land both and maybe more in terms of other NCAA sports according to longtime Hawks athletic director Don DiJulia.

Saint Joseph’s, on its own in terms of the bid, offered The Palestra on Penn’s campus for the regional and offered for the national championship finals the Wells Fargo Center, site of the highly successful 2000 Women’s Final Four when the venue then had the former Wachovia bank name attached to it.

Penn is not part of the bid as a co-host though the Quakers allowed The Palestra to be offered. Several regionals have been held there in the past, including one in 1991 when then-upstart Connecticut advanced to its first Women’s Final Four.

Though The Palestra is an older arena, it is one of the prime venues with the historic charm that some have claimed would be neat for the women’s tournament.

In fact, in the recent past, Doug Feinberg, the Associated Press’ national women’s basketball writer, wrote a feature noting places such as The Palestra in the early rounds of the tournament that would give the event a certain pizzazz.

Furthermore, last year when Trenton had a regional yanked by the NCAA when New Jersey passed legislation to allow gambling on sporting events, which since got knocked down, The Palestra was nearly picked as a replacement before the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn., got the nod from the basketball committee and other NCAA officials higher up the ladder.

Your Guru was first put on alert earlier this week to the possibility of some activity here involving the tournament bids when an NCAA source replied in the affirmative to an inquiry whether the Guru’s radar systems needed to be tuned for local news when the bids are announced early next month.

In fact the coming season and beyond was the more precise reply with the added note that the vetting process on all the bids is currently under way.

This doesn’t mean it’s a slam dunk but DiJulia thinks something could come in this direction.

The pursuit was put in motion earlier this summer before reaction heated up to the White Paper to improve NCAA women’s basketball that was completed by former WNBA president Val Ackerman. She subsequently was named to run the new incarnation of the Big East Conference as its commissioner.

Representatives of area colleges in all three NCAA divisions earlier this past summer were invited to a confab to discuss commitments to make a hard push to host and later NCAA officials stopped by for a subsequent visit that also involved the Philadelphia Sports Congress.

The NCAA delegation was made aware that the city is not only interested in the women’s tournament but bringing back events in other sports such as college ice hockey’s Frozen Four, men’s soccer, as well as lacrosse to name a few.

In the past involving the women’s tournament, cities might first host a regional before hosting the Final Four the following season.

During the discussions the locals were asked if they had any problems perhaps of taking a Final Four first and then a regional and answered in the affirmative that there were none.

Of course since all that, a summit on the White Paper was held Monday at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. It involved prominent coaches, administrators, TV network executives and other stakeholders in the sport and resulted in recommending a new model for the tournament – one of which aspect suggests that there might be only two so-called superregionals instead of four leading to the finals and that the events would rotate in the same cities over a three-year period.

Parts of the NCAA women’s tournament have been held over the years at The Palestra and Temple’s Liacouras Center as well as some early round action at Saint Joseph’s, Villanova and La Salle when the format was different involving participants in the field.

Though a recent change stemming from Ackerman’s findings allowed schools to bid and play in their own venues if they advance, the Saint Joseph’s bid offers on one hand sites that are at least quasi-neutral yet centrally located to many Eastern and near-South schools such as powerful Connecticut, Rutgers, Penn State and Maryland to name a few.

The 2000 Women’s Final Four, which featured eventual winner Connecticut, along with Tennessee, Rutgers and Penn State, was an enormous success and set a women’s tournament record for credentialed media with over 700 press passes issued. It also turned a profit.

The event had much local flavor given the schools and players and also UConn coach Geno Auriemma, who grew up in the area here in nearby Norristown in the northwest suburbs. He recently agreed after earlier protestation to accept USA Basketball’s offer to return and launch another run at a gold medal when the 201t6 Olympics are held in Brazil and the FIBA world championship is held next year.

Auriemma, incidentally, will be one of the inductees into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame at the Sheraton Society Hill hotel as will Linda Page, the scoring sensation who passed away several years ago.

“We were the first to make them money,” noted Cathy Andruzzi, who headed the local organizing committee for the 2000 Women’s Final Four. “We gave (the NCAA) a big book afterwards on how to get things done but not much ever came of it.”

Of course since then most of the NCAA types involved have moved on and to be fair in some respects in 2000 the organization had just made its move to Indianapolis after being located for many years in Kansas City, Mo. Subsequently many things got lost in the shuffle of making a re-start of operations.

The way a super regional would probably work is that there would be a day-night doubleheader in the semifinals and then a doubleheader two days later that would send two teams on to the Women’s Final Four to join the other two coming from the second super regional site.

This time, however, for the 2014 tournament the traditional format will occur so only four teams would play in a regional with one advancing to the Women’s Final Four.

Overall, the city has gotten high marks from the NCAA not only for past women’s tournaments but also for the different times hosting portions of the men’s tournament, such as a regional hosted last season by Temple, and of course a Final Four at the former Spectrum in South Philadelphia.

The Spectrum was also the scene of one of the all time men’s tournament games on March 28, 1992, in the regional final when Duke’s Christian Laettner off an inbounds play that began with 2.1 seconds left on the clock in overtime fired a game-winner beating the buzzer to give the Mike Kryzewski-coached Blue Devils a 104-103 win against the Rick Pitino-coached Kentucky Wildcats.

So is Philadelphia on the way to be in position to be involved in more legendary moments in NCAA lure.

Stay tune.

-- Mel

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


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