Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma went public this week with some of his ideas on how to juice up women’s college basketball.
Creighton coach Jim Flanery likes at least one of Auriemma’s proposals — lowering the basket.
In an interview for a sports talk show on Connecticut Public Television, Auriemma said he would like to see the rim lowered from 10 feet, cut the shot clock from 30 seconds to 24 and introduce a 8-second backcourt rule. Currently, women’s teams don’t have a time limit in which to advance the ball past halfcourt.
“What makes fans not want to watch women’s basketball is that some of the players can shoot and they miss layups and that forces the game to slow down,” said Auriemma, who coached the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal this summer and has won seven national titles with Connecticut.
“How do you help improve that? Lower the rim. Do you think the average fan knows that the net is lower in women’s volleyball than men’s volleyball? It’s about seven inches shorter so the women have the chance for the same kind of success at the net (as the men).”
Auriemma said the average fan wouldn’t know the difference is the rim was lowered, say 7.2 inches to honor Title IX (which was instituted in 1972).
“Now there would be fewer missed layups because the players are actually at the rim (when they shoot),” Auriemma said. ”Shooting percentages would go up. There would be more tip-ins.”
And perhaps more dunks, although Flanery didn’t necessarily think that would be the case.
“You might see 20 in a given year,” he said, “as opposed to how many (Baylor’s) Brittney Griner has.”
The women already use a smaller basketball and their 3-point line is closer to the rim than the men.
“I like the fact that he didn’t suggest lowering the rims to 8½ feet so that we can dunk,” Flanery said. “I think what he suggests might work, though. You have a whole generation of kids that grew up shooting at a 10-foot basket that would have to adjust.
“But when they changed the size of the ball back in the ’80s, players had to adjust to that. That was a reasonably significant change.”
Flanery wasn’t as hot on Auriemma’s shot-clock and backcourt ideas.
“The lowering of the rims idea intrigued me,” Flanery said. “When we did go to Canada a few years ago, we did use the 8-second backcourt and 24-second clock. Honestly, I think that’s too quick. I think you’d see more turnovers and sloppier play.”
Auriemma said his ideas are designed to make the women’s game more entertaining. He also said he would like to see the women’s Final Four have a select annual site or two, much like college baseball plays its championship in Omaha every season.
Auriemma said he wants to try to energize a sport he believes has become stagnant in its growth.
“I don’t know if we’ve seen the growth in the last 10 years that maybe we had hoped for,” Flanery said. ”I don’t think we’re less popular than we were 10 years ago, but I don’t think we’re more popular.
“I’d be willing to look at some things that might be a little out of the box to try to grow the game.”