Column: We probably do not need a third tournament

Published 12:21 pm Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Leave it to the NCAA to do something stupid, like launch another women’s basketball tournament.

The NCAA recently announced it was launching the Women’s Basketball Invitation Tournament this spring. It will apparently run the same way the men’s National Invitational Tournament runs. It will have a field of 32 teams that “just missed” making the NCAA Tournament.

The problem is that we already have a WNIT that has been around for years and consists of 64 teams that miss out on the big show. Does anyone really believe that we need another tournament if the WNIT does not close up shop? Heck, let’s just invite everyone to a tournament at the end of the year.

The WNIT has been around for 25 years. It is independent of the NCAA, which might be part of their motivation for wanting to have one under their control. Ultimately, it is all about the money, as always with the NCAA. They could care less about the quality of play for the tournament and how it affects the student-athlete as long as they make a buck.

The WNIT released a statement on Tuesday, announcing that it would continue to have a tournament, but the field would be trimmed to 48 teams beginning in 2024.

“The WNIT has consistently demonstrated its unwavering commitment to women’s basketball and its dedication to promoting the sport’s growth and development,” the statement read. “With a rich history spanning 25 years, the WNIT’s primary motive has always been to prioritize what is best for women’s basketball, and that unwavering dedication will continue to guide its operations.

“As the tournament moves forward, its commitment to providing a platform for teams and athletes to showcase their skills, fostering competition, and advancing the women’s game will remain unchanged, ensuring a bright and promising future for women’s basketball at the collegiate level.”

Both the NCAA and the WNIT promised more information about their tournament will come at a later date. The NCAA said it would be forming a selection committee, picking host sites, announcing bracket rules and more over the summer.

One would think adding another tournament would add more teams and give more opportunities for women’s basketball teams. That is just not the case. Currently, there are 132 teams that make the NCAA and WNIT. With the WBIT that number actually decreases by two teams.

College women’s basketball is at the height of its popularity right now. I cannot understand why the NCAA would screw with a formula that has grabbed the nation’s attention. Last year’s national championship game between LSU and Iowa drew 9.9 million viewers, an increase of more than 100 percent from the previous year.

It was also the most-watched women’s basketball game in NCAA history.

Most people live with the motto, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” Unfortunately, the people who run the NCAA have either never heard that old saying or think reinventing the wheel is a good thing, no matter how well that wheel is working.

I have become a huge college women’s basketball fan. I like how they play the game better than what I see from their male counterparts. Maybe part of that is because of the Notre Dame women’s basketball team’s success and having had many more opportunities to cover that tournament, including a Final Four than I have had with the men.

However, perhaps the biggest highlight of my postseason college basketball career came on the men’s side when Notre Dame was hosting one of the early rounds, and North Carolina was one of the teams playing in the old Athletic and Convocation Center.

Michael Jordan, who was then with the Chicago Bulls, came to the game to watch his alma mater, and he sat just a couple of rows behind me and the rest of the media. It was quite the buzz when he walked down the steps to his seat.

I am hopeful that this new tournament does not break the momentum the women’s game has built up over the past few years. Only time will tell how it will affect everything. Let’s start by seeing the plans for the new tournament and then start to make some judgments if the NCAA will continue to shoot itself in the foot every chance it gets.


Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at