AP Basketball Writer
The NCAA will host a women's basketball summit Monday with top coaches, administrators and committee members to discuss the paper that Val Ackerman submitted in late June with suggestions to improve the state of the game.
The summit will serve as a prelude to a bigger gathering at the women's Final Four this April in Nashville.
Many of Ackerman's suggestions were aimed at boosting attendance, which has become stagnant over the past few years. Last season the NCAA averaged 5,466 for all tournament rounds, which was 17th since the tournament began in 1982.
While most of the ideas that will be discussed at the summit are for long term-solutions, the women's basketball committee came up with its own short-term plan by allowing schools to bid on and host the NCAA regionals for the first time in nearly a decade. It's a move that has angered many coaches.
"I don't agree with it," said Geno Auriemma, who is expected to be at the summit Monday. "People used to buy their way into the Final Four, and now that's exactly what teams are going to be able to do again. People that have the money are going to bid on it, and they are going to get it more times than not."
UConn was not one of the schools to bid on the regionals, although the school did bid on the opening two rounds.
"I don't mind the first two rounds being on campus sites because, generally speaking, the higher seed is going to win those games no matter where they are being played," he said. "But to have a game that is being played for the right to go to the Final Four, I just don't think it's right.
"I know how tough it is for people to play us in Bridgeport or in Rhode Island, which is close by. I know how tough it is to play us in those places. But to make a team come to Storrs, Conn., and beat us there, I just don't think that's the direction we want to go in."
The NCAA said that only four of the 16 schools that made the regional semifinals last season bid for this year's regional. Still, that doesn't appease coaches.
"To me, the hypocrisy is overwhelming in a sense that money is going to trump fairness," Duke's Joanne P. McCallie said. "That's the message that's being sent. We are principled about our game, but we can be bought and sold, and the idea that someone can buy a very highly probable trip to the Final Four is something I can't even understand."
But the move increased the number of bids from three to 20.
"That was really helpful," NCAA vice president for women's basketball Anucha Browne said. "What I said to coaches was that this was a stopgap, and we're doing a number of potential improvements on how we approach regionals."
It's not only schools that are putting up bids. MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor said that his conference submitted a bid in Springfield, Mass. The MAAC successfully hosted a regional in Bridgeport last year that drew well and wasn't a losing financial proposition.
"It's possible. It takes a lot of work and a little luck," Ensor said. "UConn draws well in that marketplace, but what put us over the top was Delaware. Having a story line in the marketplace was interesting for fans and it brought a sizeable contingent, including New Jersey Gov. Christie."
The NCAA will announce the sites for this year's tournament Oct. 7.
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