This first NCAA women's basketball championship may have signaled the death of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, but many coaches and college administrators say they are not very concerned. The recent affiliation with the NCAA is the best thing that has ever happened to women's basketball, they contend.
In January, the AIAW executive committee agreed to explore dissolution arrangements should the AIAW's injunction to postpone this tournament fail in federal court. The injunction was not upheld and the committee will meet next month to discuss the future of the AIAW.
Coaches, players and administrators are delighted with the way the NCAA is running the championship tournament, and optimism abounds about the future of women's athletics now backed by the money, organization and prestige of the NCAA.
"I wonder if we had stayed with the AIAW, with their very conservative philosophy, if women's athletics would have flourished in the 80's or if we would have been subdued," said Nora Lynn Finch, chairman of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Committee and assistant director of athletics at North Carolina State. "The NCAA is the best thing ever to happen to women's basketball and it's going to get even better."
"What they (the NCAA) have done for women's basketball this year has been tremendous," saidN. C. State Coach Kay Yow. "We recognize that fact and as coaches we want to work closely with the NCAA."
Yow is a member of the executive committee of the newly formed Women's Basketball Coaches Association that has been conducting coaching clinics all week. The WBCA has met every day adopting bylaws, electing officers and arranging committees to select an all-America team to be announced in mid-April. Yow envisions close cooperation between both groups.
"We realize they (NCAA) can help us a lot and we feel we can help them in a lot of ways to run things more smoothly," she said. "It's a first-class organization. It is well organized, well planned and they have the money."
Walter Byers, executive director of the NCAA, forsees a day when women's basketball has wide public acceptance. "In a great many instances, I think we can showcase these events to where they are going to be a prominent part of the national sports scene," he said.
"Women's basketball is unique. Once it is exposed properly, we are going to build a public acceptance at a national level such as it has achieved in a number of local areas, such as here."
Residents of Norfolk don't need any prodding to become women's basketball fans. All 9,600 tickets for the championship game at noon Sunday at the Scope, matching top-ranked Louisiana Tech against second-ranked Cheyney State, have been sold, even without host Old Dominion University. The Monarchs beat all four teams in the final four but lost in the regionals.
There are some serious basketball watchers here, including 200 students from Cheyney State and 300 fans from Louisiana who traveled 24 hours by bus to cheer Tech's attempt at its second straight national championship. The Techsters won the AIAW championship last season.
"What better way to spend your retirement than to root for the Lady Techsters?" said Bill Gough of Farmerville, La.
"The women's game is really improving," said Cornell Hunter, a supervisor for C&P Telephone Co. in Virginia Beach. "I would never have expected two years ago to be here today."
"It's like a potato chip," said Donna Fielden of Knoxville, Tenn. "You can't go to just one."
If these fans want mementos of their weekend in Norfolk, the NCAA is more than prepared with T-shirts, buttons and official programs.
For fans who couldn't make the trek to Norfolk, they can watch the final starting at noon on CBS (WDVM-TV-9), if the Columbia space shuttle doesn't interfere. Should the space shuttle land on Sunday afternoon instead of Monday as originally planned, CBS will preempt the final with live coverage of the landing.