By Mel Greenberg
Word on the street out of Knoxville from reliable people in the know is another longtime member of the Tennessee athletic department primarily in the area of women’s competition, especially Lady Vol basketball, has joined the list of “Pat Summitt era” support notables who are either now in the past tense in terms of university affiliation or whose duties have been significantly altered.
According to a few sources sending notes this way, William “Willbill” Ewart, who many of you know by his shock of red hair, has been relieved of his duties as an athletic department photographer after serving 35 years.
If former longtime trainer Jenny Moshek was one of the best off-court rebounders for Summitt in terms of performing miracles in getting injured players quickly back to action, then Willbill could be considered one of the greatest “shooters” for the Hall of Fame coach who never donned a Lady Vol uniform or who’s only contact with a basketball occurred in out-of-bound situations during games.
Willbill capturing the scene involving Lady Vol athletics players and coaches as well as at off-court events was as notable in its own way as the work often done by White House photographers.
Personally, Willbill was kind enough to volunteer his services as a photographer to the Guru entourage attending the Guru’s induction in 2007 to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville.
In recent years Willbill has shot subsequent induction weekends for the Guru’s website and has traveled on his own to Women’s Final Fours to perform similar functions.
The Guru was told Willbill, unlike others, is not totally out the door but will now serve as Lady Vol Media Ombudsman, continuing his function as half-time media hospitality and postgame coach and player hospitality coordinator.
To date Willbill is not credentialed in-house for any other sports and he is banned from shooting Tennessee Athletics unless he is hired by a legitimate organization or media outlet making use of his photos, Guru sources reported.
Though the Guru has not talked to Willbill in recent days there was a sense from him in a conversation not long ago that some change to his duties may be brewing so apparently it has occurred.
In terms of Willbill's psuedo-free-agency, the Guru would say that you SIDs who read this blog and whose teams are visiting Tennessee this season for any sports but whose support staff travel budgets have been trimmed and need a reliable local photographer in Knoxville, you now know there is a good one available barring any restoration of Willbill’s previous role.
Of course, given the Guru’s longtime relationship with Lady Vol basketball either in the past as a fulltime Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter or as the AP women’s poll coordinator from its inception through 1994-95, if the Guru desires Willbill to shoot action in Knoxville, it will be interesting to see if the new top brass above the WBB SID level in athletic relations is consistent with the NCAA in considering this blog and its local sister PhilahoopsW as a legitimate organization or media outlet.
Stay tuned. NCAA Assigns Site Cities Leading to 2013-14 Womens Final Four
We've known for some time where the last stop on the NCAA trail is in terms of Nashville hosting this season's NCAA Women's Final Four.
Now we know the opening and regional routes the field of 64, when determined, must navigate in terms of geography to get there.
Despite the statements coming out of the recent summit at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis consisting of a conclave of coaches, administrators, referees and ESPN network officials that a strong message was being sent to the women's tournament committee of changes that should be done as quickly as possible, the response apparently is: Well, not that fast.
For example, it was recommended that the format go back to top 16 seeds getting home sites for first and second round action.
Instead, an announcement came Wednesday of 16 pre-determined sites, the way it has been in recent seasons and some earlier ones prior to a change when the tournament briefly got under way in the manner of the men's eight-team-per-eight-site pod system.
The summit, incidentally, was spurred by the white paper report on NCAA women's basketball in all phases produced by former WNBA president Val Ackerman before she became commissioner of the new Big East conference.
In terms of the early round sites, on one hand, at the outset of a season that still must be played out before the move this time can be evaluated, at least 12 of the 16 host schools/cities could land in the top 16 and all have a shot at making the field, which, of course, would preclude any site being truly neutral.
And for teams in the East, such as schools here in the Philadelphia area, there are plenty of places to be placed without any type of hardhip travel in terms of Penn State, Connecticut, Duke, Maryland, and North Carolina as options, though all would be tough on home floors but in fairness all would probably be higher seeds anyway.
But when it comes to the four regionals, the assignment could get intriguing in terms of who lands at either Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., or at Louisville in Kentucky, or Lincoln, Nebraska, or Stanford in northern Californi by the Bay Area community of Palo Alto.
Because of another outgrowth of the white paper, teams are allowed to play in their own venues in the regionals.
However, at the regional level of the next Big Dance in March-April, when the talk has been finding ways to promote media coverage and create a fine arena atmosphere, the Northeast has been left out in the cold more than weatherwise.
It is only the second time in the 33-year history of the tournament -- the other being in 1989 -- that the state of Kentucky becomes the Eastern most locale. In the other instance Western Kentucky was a host in Bowling Green when the Hilltoppers were a national power.
It is known that Springfield, Mass., had a bid, which would have been a fine and convenient place for teams, like the powerhouse down the road, fans and media to get to from the East at low cost rates.
There are other years in which a pure Northeast locale was not in the regional mix, but in those instances the Eastern most sites were either at Dayton in Ohio, or in North Carolina at either Greensboro or Raleigh, or once in South Carolina with the Gamecocks hosting in Columbia.
Because one does not know yet of any changes in principles and procedures in building the tournament -- it's not as easy even for the Guru these days to chat with people to get background of deliberations -- Connecticut does not have a total slam diunk to obtaining what would be record-breaking title number nine.
Yeah, we started out here last year in the same mode with Baylor and the given did not happen thanks to, by the way, Louisville, so this assumption involving Connecticut is for illustrative discussion.
Say the Huskies are the overall No. 1 seed, barring that they don't get topped because some committee types could decide that someone with a better RPI (perils of The American) trumps the best talent in the tournament.
Then under the current setup they get near geography, which according to precise Mapquest readout is Notre Dame, though Louisville is only less than a 100 miles or one hour more away.
Well since the Irish are now in the Atlantic Coast Conference there's no rules of placement problem since UConn and Notre Dame are no longer in-house rivals. There is one of your first outgrowths of the whole shuiffle of schools that occurred last July.
But for now, Louisville, ACC-bound next year, is still in the revamped American (formerly football portion of the Big East with mass changes), and thus is a conference rival of UConn -- the Huskies topped the Cardinals for last season's title game.
So if during tournament committee deliberations Louisville lands on line four, UConn could not be No. 1 there because the two could not meet until the regional final, barring a change in putting the tournament together.
And then, maybe, it would not be workable to put UConn at Notre Dame, so Nebraska is the next available stop.
As for the list of the 16 early-round host schools, there are the five already mentioned -- Penn State, Maryland, North Carolina, Duke,and Connecticut.
The other 11 are Iowa State, Iowa, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Kentucky, LSU, Baylor, Purdue, UCLA, Washington and, for the first time Toledo.
In terms of powerhouse conferences the Southeastern got four members as hosts (Tennessee, Texas A&M, LSU and Kentucky), while three teams as hosts went to the Atlantic Coast (Duke, Maryland, North Carolina) and Big Ten (Penn State, Iowa, and Purdue). Two-each went to the Pac-12 (Washington, UCLA,) and Big 12 (Baylor and Iowa State).
The American, still a higher designation for the moment, got Connecticut, whose RPI could be dragged in-house despite a killer non-conference schedule for the rest of it.
And Toledo out of the Mid-American becomes the sole Mid-Major in the mix.
For now, the tablecloth is down and beginning Nov. 8, the ensuing four months involving conference and nonconference warfare will lead to resumption of this discussion in mid-March when the time comes to determine exactly how the fine and not-so-fine 64 pieces of china and silverware will be placed on such table. -- Mel
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