SAN FRANCISCO Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott opened the conferences 2017 womens basketball media day reiterating how much he loves the sport and expressing his dedication to make sure it remains a successful part of the league.
Particularly a delight for me to sit here today and preview our upcoming womens basketball season, because promoting womens sports at the Pac-12, and certainly from my perspective, its always been very important to me and a passion, Scott said.
After providing a quick rundown of the leagues achievements over the past few seasons, Scott discussed the factors that he feels are key to the continued growth of what he feels is the strongest and deepest conference for womens basketball.
Last season, the league celebrated along with Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer after she earned her 1,000th career win in early February.
We took a lot of pride in seeing Tara become the third coach in history to win a 1000th NCAA game victory, Scott said. We were able to celebrate that on the Pac-12 Networks.
Pac-12 coaches have managed to recruit well enough to have four programs in the top 20 ESPNW 2017 Womens Basketball Class Rankings: No. 5 Stanford, No. 6 UCLA, No. 15 Oregon State and No. 17 California.
Several head coach newcomers are in mix along with veterans like VanDerveer, Arizona States Charli Turner Thorne (21 years) and Washington States June Daugherty (11 years and WSU and 12 seasons at Washington). Four coaches have been at the helm of Pac-12 programs for no more than three years: Arizonas Adia Barnes, Colorados JR Payne, Utahs Lynne Roberts and Washingtons Jody Wynn.
Weve got a great group of coaches, Scott said. One of the proud things as well is to see some former student-athletes that are now successful coaches in our conference. Adia Barnes, a standout at Arizona. Charli Turner Thorne, a stand-out, played for Tara at Stanford. Funny how things come full circle.
USCs new coach is a returnee to the league. Mark Trakh, who was named head coach of the Trojans in April, previously coached the team from 2005-09 and led the squad to two NCAA tournament berths.
The full list of the leagues coaches:
After seeing a decline in attendance, the Pac-12 moved its womens basketball conference to KeyArena Seattle in 2013. Last season, the league saw the highest attendance at the arena, 36,777 for the entire run of the event.
In March 2016, the conference extended its partnership with Force 10 Sports Management, LLC (the owners of the WNBAs Seattle Storm), the Seattle Sports Commission, and Seattle Center to keep the tournament at KeyArena until 2019.
A wrinkle in the agreement could be plans for renovating the arena. The Seattle City Council and Oak View Group are working on a deal that could cause the arena to be under construction for at least three years beginning in 2018.
Were in close touch with our partners in Seattle, aware of the possibility that it will be under construction, Scott said when asked about the renovation. There will be no impact on the 2018 championship that we have there. There could possibly be an impact for 2019. So, were staying in close touch with them and starting to explore what our alternatives would be in any years that we could not compete at Key. But we do not have any specific plans in place at the moment.
The 2018 tournament runs March 1 4. Every game of the tournament will be broadcast live on either the Pac-12 Network or the ESPN family of networks.
The conference announced an extension of its agreement with New York Life as the presenting sponsor of both the womens and mens basketball tournaments this week. The deal with New York Life began during the 2014-15 season.
Since the launch of Pac-12 Networks in 2012, coaches and players have benefitted from the increased exposure provided by television broadcasts and live streams of games. According to Scott, before the network launched there were no more than five games during the regular season that would have been telecast nationally.
This upcoming season, were going to have 110 games, season games, telecast on the Pac-12 Networks, in addition to the five that ESPN are going to telecast, Scott said in explaining why he felt it was important to invest in broadcasting womens basketball contests.
I think its probably obvious to many of you in here, but if the sole focus of a television company is just ratings and advertising and return on investment, you know, its only a small handful of womens basketball games youre probably going to telecast. If your mission is to promote your sports that mean a lot to you, to give equal access, to use your media platform, to give exposure to the amazing student-athletes that you have and the programs that you have, you invest and you telecast more of it.
The results of the leagues coaches poll were announced the morning of media day. UCLA topped the poll for the second consecutive year. The Bruins garnered 115 points and seven first-place votes to land ahead of Oregon and Stanford who tied for second place with 108 points each.
The conference has released a preseason poll every year since it began sponsoring womens sports in 1986-87.
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