NCAA Women’s Basketball Could Have An NBA Sound

NCAA Women’s Basketball Could Have An NBA Sound

The NCAA women’s basketball rules committee is considering some new rules for the upcoming season, one of those that could greatly affect the way the women’s game is seen, or better yet, heard. The differences in men’s and women’s lacrosse are major, they’re two separate games, however the differences in men’s and women’s basketball are

The NCAA women’s basketball rules committee is considering some new rules for the upcoming season, one of those that could greatly affect the way the women’s game is seen, or better yet, heard.

The differences in men’s and women’s lacrosse are major, they’re two separate games, however the differences in men’s and women’s basketball are slight, but enough to make you go, “hmmmm”.

A few years ago, women’s basketball stopped team fouls at seven while the men’s game went to a double bonus at 10 team fouls (editor’s note:  this was back in the 90’s, the NCAA eventually made the team foul situation uniform between men’s and women’s basketball).  Up until a couple of years ago, women’s basketball did not have a 10-second back-court violation and the three point lines were at different lengths from the basket.  Those were the noticeable differences between the two sports, minor things that a casual observer may miss, or an expert observer would accept like the difference in sizes of the basketball.  Nothing major.

NCAA Women’s Basketball Proposed Changes

What is coming up with a vote on June 8 though, could really change women’s basketball, and college basketball as a whole, and in looking at the grand picture, it won’t be good.  In the short vision of it, it sounds like a good idea, but it’s not, right now.

Bands/Amplified Music

In an effort to improve the overall fan experience, the committee recommended bands or amplified music may be played during any dead-ball situation. Current rules allow music to be played only during timeouts and intermission.

Yes, you saw that correctly, the NCAA wants to bring in more music during any dead-ball situation.  On the surface, it sounds like a great idea and here’s why:

  • Courtesy Fairfax Times.

    George Mason University’s Pep Band is one of the best in college basketball.  Photo from Fairfax Times.

    It allows bands to play more music, which in an NCAA environment, really does enhance the mood.

  • In situations in which the teams are playing in front of a sparse crowd, it fills the silence that is otherwise deafening.
  • The women’s game is fun to watch, this might grab a few more people to watch because they have a good time at the game and want to come back.
  • Crowd prompts and other situational music can be used to enhance the atmosphere at the game.
  • It brings more of a personality to the sport as a whole.  Too many basketball P. A. announcers sound the same, so you know when going on on the road, you’re going to have someone who barely announces you while screaming for his/her team.  This might give schools a chance to show more of a personal identity rather than sounding like everyone else in their conference. Recommending No To Some Proposed Basketball Rules

All great points, all great ideas and all we can understand.  But keep in mind, we understand that through 24-plus years of experience in game operations.  That experience also gives us the insight to understand the other side of the court and really see what’s going to happen and what could happen.

  • How can a band, who typically needs 5-10 seconds to prepare to perform, going to be able to react to the game situations when most dead ball situations take 5-10 seconds to complete (out of bounds, traveling, etc.)?  This isn’t a knock on the bands, we love them, but it’s hard to keep them ready at a moment’s notice and not really fair to make them have to react on the fly.  This leaves most of the dead-ball situations to music personnel.
  • We like the idea of adding music to a small crowd, if done right, it can really enhance the atmosphere.  If it’s done wrong and the person playing the music is choosing selections that don’t make sense, or do nothing to enhance the atmosphere, it can really take away from the whole event and have the opposite reaction which is not good for the sport.  Women’s basketball is fun to watch and we wish more people would tune in to watch it for skills the players have.
  • You will have people who will complain.  Women’s basketball is not the NBA or WNBA, and that’s a good thing.  The NBA is about as close to college basketball, as the Harlem Globetrotters are to the Golden State Warriors.  Yes, there’s a ball, a hoop and some fancy moves, but they’re just not the same.
  • Courtesy

    Fans being prompted to cheer during a football game.  Photo from

    Crowd prompts can be good to get the fans to play along with the game, but if over done, it takes away.  The perfect example are the number of times you see, “Make Noise” compared to the number of times people actually make noise.  And finding crowd prompts that work can be hard, unless you have an online resource that lists a few CD’s or libraries…oh wait.  Yeah, look to the right on our home page!

  • It brings more personality, but you’re also putting the responsibility to create this atmosphere into the hands of some people who have no right, nor ability to actually pull this off successfully.  We’ve seen it at all levels, marketing people who don’t have a full grasp on actually putting together an event, making simple mistakes.  This is not an extra responsibility that they need.  We’ve worked with some who don’t know what a hot timeout is and are screaming at us for not reading an ad for an upcoming game while the crowd is cheering.

In addition to the above, you run into instances where you have a DJ who doesn’t quite understand the new rules and plays too long causing issues with the game.  Or you have some schools where the DJ position is someone who is assigned on game night to click buttons on a computer, and doesn’t have a full-on grasp of the entire game or flow.  That’s why professional teams have a main person who sets up their library, and maybe 1 or 2 backups who have full knowledge of the show to fill in.  You can also have a DJ who is in a bad position to hear the announcer or who feels like playing music when the P. A. announcer needs to make an announcement related to the game.

You’re also going to have issues with bands.  Honestly, we love bands in NCAA events.  But the problem is, cueing.  At the Stagg Bowl, we worked out a visual cue, but the bands still need 5-10 seconds to get ready.  That’s not a knock on the bands, there’s a lot of people to get ready in a short amount of time, and then what are they going to play.  The bands would turn into drumlines, who could play after certain happenings, but then you have to coordinate all of that.  It’s not easy to do.  There will be plenty of dual-play situations when someone in the band plays while the DJ also plays.

A big problem that we can foresee, and the reason we can foresee it is because honestly we’d do it, is teams who know how to get under the skin of their opponents.  When announcing for the Washington Glory in National Pro Fastpitch, our owner, Jarrod Wronski, would routinely find ways to irk the opposition to create the home-field advantage.  Whether it was playing the “Meow Mix Theme Song” for Cat Osterman or playing a pitcher’s typical warm-up song for when the Glory had a rally against her.  Or while in Minor League Baseball, playing “Goodbye Earl” when Earl Snyder made an out, or “One is the Lonliest Number” for a batter wearing number 1, or “Cheers Theme” for Woody Cliffords.  We always pushed the envelope and may have crossed it a few times.  Wronski was younger, around college age, and those experiences would have happened in a college setting.

Another big issue is going to happen with free throws.  Back in high school in the 90’s, Wronski played a sound effect after each successful basket made by the home team.  Teams loved it, however what is the limit on when you can and cannot play in free-throw situations.  Typically, coming off a timeout, when the player steps to the line, the music is faded or stopped as not to interfere with the shooter.

You’re also opening the box to allow walk-up music for the shooters, akin to baseball or softball.  While this is easy to pull off if you’re using hot keys in Sports Sounds Pro, Click Effects or Sound Director, it can get clunky if you’re not using this software, which even at $150, some schools balk at purchasing to use a free iTunes or WinAmp.

What we haven’t really touched upon here, is the style of music played.  If you’re playing upbeat music, yes, great, add it, have fun with it and it will enhance the atmosphere.  But there are always going to be players that choose music with offensive lyrics, or the mood of the song just doesn’t go along with enhancing the atmosphere.

Announcers complain all the time about the warm-up music that’s given to them in high school and college, and parents complain to these same announcers about those music choices.  When it comes to announcing the Old Dominion Athletic Conference basketball tournament or NCAA men’s tournament, we have many athletic directors and fans from teams who rave about the music we choose.  Some people get it musically, a lot don’t and that’s what’s going to dominate the scene.  Wronski’s goal during these tournaments is to make sure the fans have a great time, while the players enjoy playing for a championship.  The key is to not take away from the play on the court, the players are the highlight, they are what people came to see.  Music and announcing is to enhance the atmosphere and shouldn’t take over.

The other issue you’re going to have is players who want to listen to their song walking up to the line.  In baseball and softball, we’ve had players over the years that would not step into the box until a certain part of their song played.  This slows the game down.  You can have referees enforce a 10- or 15-second rule to get to the line, but that’s not fair to them to now have to count players during dead-ball situations.  On-court officials have a lot to worry about, especially in foul situations.  One is calling the foul and reporting it, one is tracking the shooter while the third is hunting down the ball.  They’re also making sure the players safely make their way to the lane.

A couple of paragraphs up, we mentioned how some teams balk at paying $150 for a music playback system.  Are they going to spend the money to legally obtain the music they’re playing for the players?  Maybe, maybe not.  We’re not going to accuse schools of obtaining music in an unlawful fashion, however it’s going to take a lot of music to properly fill the game.  You can’t simply add a few songs, you’re looking at about 2-2 1/2 stoppages per minute per game.  That’s an additional 80-100 songs you need to add to your arsenal, however we’d recommend at least another 200 so it doesn’t get stale and you’re not repeating music.

For the Washington Kastles of World Team Tennis, it’s not uncommon for us to go through 300 songs on a given night with all of the music played between points.  It’s a lot and we try to maintain a database so we’re not using the same songs each night.  However, if you watch other teams in the league, you’ll hear music sporadically, and sometimes it’s just the continuation of a song from where it was paused going to the next point.  It really does take a lot to properly produce a top-quality show and it’s tough to do.

Now, we talk about personnel a little more.  We’ve had the chance to work with Division-I and Division-II programs on their game operations.  Typically, you have students or marketers who are put into the position as the game producer.  Or you have people who come “down” from the NBA.  You’re put into a situation in which people who don’t quite “get it” are going to be put in charge.  When you start talking about smaller Division-I, Division-II, and Division-III teams, you’re working with a lot smaller crew and less oversight due mainly to budgetary concerns.  And that budget isn’t always monetary, sometimes it has to do with the number of people they have available.  Yes, you’re going to have some be successful, that’s the law of averages.  You’re also going to have a lot that flop and not because of any fault of their own, those will become the black eye of the sport.

While running the show for Division-III men’s basketball, we’ve thought about what it would be like to have music during play, but it’s not worth it.  The crowds carry the atmosphere and by not having music during non-media timeouts, or extended breaks (like replays), it allows the fans to breathe and create their own noise.  Fans are not so dumb that they will only wait for the video board to tell them to make noise or chant.  They can and do carry the show.

There is a lot more work that goes into putting on a show that most people realize, there’s a lot of homework that needs to be done and even though the NCAA has a group that helps with providing run of shows and playlists, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.  And what works in one city, may or may not work in another city, so relying on one point to create the show for people, you lose out on personalizing the entire show.  We’re happy to work with any school on giving them tips and ideas to run their show, but in the end, they need to make it their own and not have to rely on someone a town, state, or coast away who many have never been to their gym to make those calls.

This is a great idea on paper, but in reality, there are going to be execution problems and issues that arise that may not have been foreseen.  This does have the makings for something good but needs some work, not just simple tweaks, but definitely some work to make sure all the “i’s” are dotted, “t’s” crossed and much understanding from all sides.

While some see this as a gimmick, yes, we can understand, due in part to all the problems that will arise.  And we’re confident these issues will arise.  The big part is seeing these issues ahead of time and working to correct those before they happen.  We’re happy to help because we think this could be a very good thing, if done right.

Jarrod Wronski

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