Rick Dickson, NCAA officials tout impact of Women’s Final Four

NEW ORLEANS — The 2013 NCAA Women’s Final Four had an economic impact last month of more than $20 million, Tulane Athletic Director Rick Dickson said Wednesday morning at a post-event news conference.

Anucha Browne, vice president of women’s basketball championships for the NCAA, announced that both semifinals and the championship game were sellouts at the New Orleans Arena, leading to a 25-percent increase in attendance from the previous championship game. Connecticut won its eighth NCAA title with a 93-60 rout of Louisville.

Related events celebrating the host city and participating schools transformed what was just a championship game in 1991 — the first year the event was held in New Orleans — into last month’s week-long celebration, Browne said.

“It’s a huge tribute to Title IX, providing opportunities for women and starting to level the playing field for women in sports,” Browne said. “So really when you think about the growth of this tournament, it’s a celebration of all these women.”

More than 11 million television viewers watched the three games, which were broadcast in 193 countries. Also, more than 162,000 unique visitors downloaded and viewed a Women’s Final Four phone app during a three-week period through early April.

Now that the pageantry surrounding the Women’s Final Four has improved, Browne said one of her future goals is to improve the sport’s overall revenue stream.

“If there’s more allegiance to our regular-season activities, then they’ll be more allegiance to our postseason activities,” she said.

New Orleans has hosted a record three Women’s Final Fours.

Jay Cicero, President/CEO of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, said the local organizing committee plans to bid for future Men and Women’s Final Four sites, starting with 2017. The Women’s Final Four will be held next year in Nashville, Tenn., followed by Tampa, Fla., and Indianapolis. The men’s edition will be in Dallas in 2014, then Indianapolis and Houston.

Cicero added that GNOSF will bid for Super Bowls 2018 and beyond; the 2016 NCAA football national championship game under its new format; AAU Junior Olympic Games (starting in 2017); USA Girls Volleyball Junior Nationals (starting in 2015); and a future Southeastern Conference men’s basketball tournament.