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Vol. 50, No. 4 May 2013 .pdf version
Women's Final Four tweaks awards, faces seating issues
By MEL GREENBERG
NEW ORLEANS There was a change in format for the presentation of the awards from the United States Basketball Writers Association at the NCAA Women's Final Four here, from the breakfast format of the past on the morning of the championship to an inside-the-arena event several hours before the national semifinals. The change was a major success.
Located in the interview room next to the working area, the presentations received a major boost in attendance and were enhanced by two presenters.
Because Notre Dame played in the second semifinal game, Chris Masters, the Irish's media liaison, accepted the coach of the year award on behalf of Muffet McGraw.
Hall of Famer Ann Meyers Drysdale of the Phoenix Mercury helped present the USBWA's national women's award in her name to Baylor senior Brittney Griner, who was a repeat selection.
"I couldn't have done any of this without everybody behind me," Griner said.
The highlight was Oakland coach Becky Francis receiving the USBWA's Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award that goes to the women's winner.
Tyler Summitt, the son of the former Tennessee legendary coach, helped make the presentation to Francis, who last fall publicly revealed she had been sexually abused by her deceased father from age four through seventh grade.
"I was really upset by some of the comments I was hearing about the victims of Jerry Sandusky," Francis said. "I said, I have to be a voice for the voiceless. I have to do something.
"When I talk about this, people come up and tell me they were abused too. Every time I tell the story, the same thing happens. I want to thank the U.S. Basketball Writers Association so much for this. You get it."
Moving forward, an initiative has begun with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame officials to have women's honorees announced in conjunction with the women's event rather than having them travel to the men's Final Four, where they often get less attention.
Yours truly also spoke of the idea with ESPN officials at a small media reception given by WNBA president Laurel Ritchie and they seem receptive.
On the down side, most of us here learned after the fact that a media seating issue also exists with the NCAA in terms of courtside locations at the Women's Final Four. Many were placed upstairs in the New Orleans Arena. If a flash flood struck, it would take weeks for the water to reach that level.
Many smaller organizations and longtime journalists who have covered the Women's Final Four for years were at a disadvantage.
We have a year to come to some resolution for Nashville with a different arena configuration and will work with the NCAA to see what improvements are possible though knowing some sacrifices will still occur.
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