Over on one of the major subscription boards, there's a lively debate going on regarding the recent statements by UConn coach Geno Auriemma that he would support a change in women's basketball moving the rim down from the standard 10. He doesn't say how low it would go in the article, but I would imagine it would be something like 8 or 9 feet, a serious departure from the way things are now.
The goal of this change would ostensibly be to increase the excitement and pace of the women's game, since the lack of an above-the-rim game from 99.9% of the players is a major criticism of both college and the WNBA. Geno mentions the tremendous height disparity between the average male and female player as well as the differences in athleticism. Lowering the rim could negate some of those differences and bring the two games, men's and women's, more in line with each other in what people actually see. Long-term, with the WNBA relying on the NBA to subsidize its continued existence, this kind of change could help alleviate some of the difficulties faced by that league. I can understand the argument, and I certainly respect Geno's take on the issue given his familiarity with the subject matter.
But while the benefits may be easily grasped, so are the costs, which are legion. Uniformity in the entire world of women's basketball would require that the change be made at every level so that high school players aren't playing a different game than college players and college players a different game than the pros. You don't want players having to relearn basically everything at every stop. At the lower levels, then, this change would require the installation of adjustable goals based on who is playing, something that may not be feasible for every gym, school, or athletic club, especially those in low-income or rural areas. Girls wanting to play the sport by the rules that would be applied to them in college or the pros might be completely unable to do so in that kind of situation. How many public basketball courts have adjustable goals?
Even more than the financial cost, though, I think this issue goes to the heart of what people want women's basketball to be. I've seen several supporters of this change argue that it should be more like the men's game to attract interest. This would just be the latest step in the evolution of the game designed to cater to the skillset of female players like the move to a smaller basketball. The opposition says that women's basketball is fine the way it is as a separate entity. If people want to watch the style of play of the men, they'd just watch men.
Count me in the latter camp, I think. I don't see the necessity in doing it because I enjoy the differences between the two styles of play, and I don't really see the benefit, either. This change would make the women's game more fan-friendly to people that don't already like it, since they'd just go watch men play if they wanted to see that style. People who love women's basketball do so because while it is played on the same court and by largely the same rules, it is relatively unique. Forcing the two together this way rather than acknowledging that the games are as different as the players that play them seems misguided. Further, the game is already evolving due to the fact that players are now bigger, stronger, and more athletic than ever before. The spread of women's basketball in lower levels means we have more coaches and players actually growing up with the game. The game is improving already with better shooters, post players, defenders, etc. The things Geno cites in the article, the players who can't shoot, make lay-ups, or whatever else, sound like problems of individual players/teams rather than systemic issues. Basically, this strikes me as an unnecessary gimmick.
Of course, it could lead to innumerable Brittney Griner windmill dunks, and that might be enough to change my mind completely.