The Division I Championships and Competition Cabinet has recommended the approval of the expansion of the NCAA Division I women’s tournament to eight teams from its current four, beginning with the 2004-05 season. The decision was made at its regular meeting last week in Indianapolis. It still faces approval from the Budget Committee and Management Council.
As rationale for its recommendation, the Cabinet noted:
- Gross receipts for the championship have increased each of the three years it has been conducted.
- Championship attendance has continued to grow during the last three years (i.e., 2001 — 3,866; 2002 — 4,885; 2003 — 9,988).
- The number of club teams sponsoring the sport has grown steadily (approximately 20 institutions currently).
- Several institutions have recently reclassified their women’s hockey programs to Division I.
- Sponsorship numbers have increased each year since 1996 (from 12 to 30).
- With the addition of College Hockey America and the Hockey East Conference, the number of Division I conferences sponsoring the sport has grown from two to four in the last two years. These conferences likely will be eligible for an automatic bid. Currently, all teams are selected at large.
- Expanding the bracket to eight will provide more student-athletes an opportunity to experience championship competition. In addition, it will provide more teams the possibility of being selected, thereby enhancing the growth potential of the sport.
The Cabinet also awarded the host site for the 2005 NCAA women’s tournament to New Hampshire, the 2006 tournament to Minnesota’s Mariucci Arena, and the 2007 tournament to St. Lawrence and the Olympic Regional Development Authority in Lake Placid, N.Y.