NCAA’s strategic plan will grow women’s basketball at every level

Louisville players celebrate an NCAA Tournament win two months ago. Photo courtesy of Louisville Athletics.
Louisville players celebrate an NCAA Tournament win two months ago. Photo courtesy of Louisville Athletics.

Last week the NCAA unveiled a five-year strategic plan to grow women’s basketball for the next five years. Coaches, administrators, and past and present student-athletes at every level of the college game were consulted over a year-long period to formulate the initiative.

The goals of the ambitious plan are to unify and grow the women’s basketball community, empower student-athletes to reach their full potential, celebrate and elevate the game, and create an inspiring experience for all involved. These aims will be tackled through five objectives:

Leadership objectives:

Drive awareness of and advocate for women’s basketball

  • Engage cross-divisional constituents in decision making
  • Collaborate with organizations making significant contributions to the game
  • Increase pool of qualified individuals to serve in important roles in the women’s basketball governance structure
  • Engage in strategically aligned initiatives relating to girls and women in sport

Position coaches as ambassadors for the sport

  • Collaborate with the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and other key stakeholders to advance the professional development and retention of coaches and increase opportunities for women and minorities
  • Encourage coaches to embrace their role, understand their value and share their voice to grow the game at the institutional, local, regional and national levels
  • Collaborate with the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and other key stakeholders on initiatives designed to advance a culture of integrity and student-athlete well-being

Promote fiscal responsibility and sustainability

  • Affirm and broadly communicate the value-add that women’s basketball brings to the athletics department and the community
  • Promote opportunities for revenue generation and identify ways to strategically manage expenses

Engage with organizations that oversee and administer youth basketball programs

  • Explore strategic partnerships with organizations leading youth development programs
  • Collaborate with USA Basketball, AAU, National Federation of State High School Associations and other organizations to advance skill and athletic development of youth

Transformational student-athlete experience objectives:

Support and promote student-athlete well-being

  • Engage the NCAA Sport Science Institute (SSI) and the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports to develop and execute a plan to address health, safety and wellness in women’s basketball
  • Collaborate with SSI to deliver and promote mental health awareness best practices at the campus level for women’s basketball

Facilitate effective post-athletics transition, career preparation and leadership development

  • Offer opportunities for student-athletes focused on careers in all aspects of the business of sports (e.g., broadcasting, coaching, officiating and athletics administration)
  • Explore collaborative opportunities to provide programming and events focusing on post-athletics transition

Quality competition objectives:

Improve competitive parity

  • Create a long-range, division-specific strategy to address issues affecting competitive parity
  • Evaluate current and proposed playing rules, bylaws and legislation that may affect competitive parity

Explore innovations to elevate the game

  • Work with sport and playing rules committees on fundamental rules changes to enhance the game and accentuate its unique identity
  • Explore and implement innovative uses of technology

Enhance the existing national officiating program

  • Explore ways to increase the number of qualified officials in the pipeline
  • Enhance the skill development, evaluation and accountability of officials
  • Increase awareness of and appreciation for the officiating program

Memorable Championships objectives:

Ensure quality championship format, site selection and management

  • Review championship formats (e.g., various seeding/bracketing procedures; regional locations)
  • Enhance site selection and management strategies
  • Take intentional steps to leave a women’s basketball legacy in the host community
  • Evaluate ongoing opportunities for joint championships

Ensure integrity in team selection, seeding and bracketing

  • Evaluate selection tools and resources (e.g., RPI, NCAA Evaluation Tool, technology)
  • Continually evaluate policies and procedures in order to align with the evolution of the game
  • Offer additional educational opportunities for membership, media and fans (e.g., mock selections)

Optimize the student-athlete experience at NCAA championships

  • Explore ways to create a more impactful celebration from invitation to the conclusion of competition (with an emphasis on the preliminary rounds)

Optimize the fan experience at NCAA championships

  • Identify synergetic opportunities for game promotions and fan engagement
  • Explore ways to better market the championships

Build affinity objectives:

Build cohesion, vision and awareness to enhance the future of the game

  • Define the unique identity of and create branding to promote NCAA Women’s Basketball
  • Arm the women’s basketball community with a unified message that promotes the women’s basketball brand
  • Expand the use of social media platforms and other technologies to advance the brand

More deeply connect the women’s basketball community by telling our compelling story

  • Engage former student-athletes (including WNBA/professional players) to stay engaged in the sport and serve as ambassadors for the game
  • Develop a consortium of media to advise and deliver intentional messaging to elevate the game
  • Invite current or former NBA players and other high-profile individuals to advocate the value of basketball for girls and women

Grow the fan base

  • Create and implement action strategies to grow the fan base and increase attendance
  • Engage key partners to create collaborative marketing strategies
  • Foster and enhance the connection our audiences experience to the game, student-athletes and coaches by strategically recognizing our past, celebrating our present and anticipating our future

An NCAA spokesperson elaborated on specific aspects of the plan:

  • The strategy “Collaborate with organizations making significant contributions to the game” Is referring to, but is not limited to, organizations like USA Basketball, WNBA and the National Federation of High Schools.
  • One example of of strategically aligned initiatives relating to girls and women in sport is the Final Four. The idea of this strategy is to open the possibility of collaboration with initiatives that will drive awareness of and advocate for girls and women in basketball and in sport more broadly.
  • Action planning in the area of career transitioning will bring more clear steps to advance these strategies. The initial focus is on what can be done in and through the Final Four to provide student-athletes opportunities to explore sports-related careers and transition from the student-athlete to the post-athletics career.
  • The idea behind taking intentional steps to leave a women’s basketball legacy in the host community is to add this strategy to the bid process and give cities the opportunity to share ideas about how they can make sure that hosting provides an intentional positive mark on the city. What can be done so that girls and women’s basketball and sport in general grow as a result of hosting this extraordinary event. Tampa did a nice job of this with the “Read To The Final Four” (https://www.wfftampabay.com/read-to-the-final-four) reading program that reached over 91,000 elementary school students in Tampa and Hillsborough County.
  • The ultimate aim of the plan is to link all girls and women’s basketball, and thus increase the sport’s total strength.

The NCAA women’s basketball staff, along with a cross-divisional steering committee, will lead and oversee implementation of the plan over the next five years.

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