University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach suggests lowering rims for women’s teams

Chart DownFor the seven-time national championship women’s basketball team at the University of Connecticut, execution on the offense has never been an issue. However, the mastermind behind this championship team has come up with a rather radical idea that he believes will improve the game of women’s basketball, and increase viewership for the sport.

“What makes fans not want to watch women’s basketball is that some of the players can’t shoot and they miss layups and that forces the game to slow down,” said the U-Conn women’s basketball head Coach Geno Auriemma.

He believes that rims should be lowered for women’s basketball, to boost offensive output and also to generate a larger fan base for the sport. He offered his insights on how to improve that.
“Lower the rim [from 10 feet]. Do you think the average fan knows that the net is lower in women’s volleyball than men’s volleyball? It’s about seven inches shorter, so the women have the chance for the same kind of success at the net [as the men].”

A look at the numbers will tell the truth about offensive scoring in women’s basketball. Among women’s Division I teams in the 2011-12 season, only 11 could shoot at 45 percent or better from the field. Baylor sits in first place at 48.8 percent, and U-Conn comes in second at 47.7 percent. On the other hand, 109 Division I men’s basketball teams surpassed that mark.

“Let’s say the average men’s player is 6-5 and the average woman is 5-11,” said Auriemma. “Let’s lower the rim seven inches; let’s say 7.2 inches to honor Title IX [instituted in 1972]. If you lower it, the average fan likely wouldn’t even notice it.

“Now there would be fewer missed layups because the players are actually at the rim [when they shoot]. Shooting percentages go up. There would be more tip-ins.”

There are not very many Brittney Griners in women’s basketball that can dunk and shoot at 60.9 percent. The majority of these players must rely on jump shots and layups to put points up.

Auriemma plans to propose this idea to the NCAA’s rules committee. He has also suggested reducing the shot-clock from 30 to 24 seconds, as well as instituting an eight-second backcourt rule to speed up play.

As radical as it may seem, his idea does hold some merit. Many other women’s sports make rule adjustments to account for the physical differences between men and women. Women golfers tee off closer to the green, and softball fields are smaller than baseball fields. Women’s basketball already uses smaller balls than men’s basketball, so why not make an adjustment for rims as well?

The issue is that there are many practical problems involved with such a drastic change. The change would need to occur at all levels to make a positive impact, and not just occur at the college level. Across the nation in schools, playgrounds, and parks, most rims are fixed at the standard 10-feet. Adjustable rims come with a very big price tag. Not many of these municipalities will have the motivation or the funds to install adjustable rims, or separate courts for girls.

The other issue that would crop up if this idea was considered by the NCAA, is that women would come into their college careers overshooting the shorter baskets after growing up on standard 10-foot tall hoops. This would be counter-intuitive as it would possibly cause women basketball players to miss more shots than they normally would on a standard hoop, and thus would defeat the whole purpose of the rule change. Following college careers into the pros would pose yet another issue, because if the WNBA does not follow suit with colleges, these women players would need to make yet another adjustment of playing on standard size hoops once again after college. Auriemma’s ideas stem from good intentions, but they’re just about a century overdue.

Nancy “Lady Magic” Lieberman is a Hall of Famer who earned her nickname during her college playing days in the late 70s. She has recently held a position coaching a team for a NBA Developmental League. She believes that lowering rims would stunt the evolution of women’s basketball.

“Why lower the rim when we’re getting to the rim,” she said. “The history of the game says we’ll get there early and often. I know of 13- and 14-year old kids who are learning how to dunk now. Don’t go backwards.”