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Women’s Final Four: Can It Draw in L.A.?

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Is Los Angeles ready to play host to another women’s basketball Final Four?

The last time the NCAA’s Division I championship was held in this city it was hardly grand and certainly no spectacle. Only 5,365 showed at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion to watch USC defeat Tennessee, 72-61, for the national championship. The combined attendance figures for the semifinals and final was 11,437 (6,172 showed for the semifinals).

“The Final Four in ’84, when I look back . . . by no means was that a success,” said Judith Holland, UCLA’s senior associate athletic director, and a key factor in getting Los Angeles another chance.

And this season there is a strong likelihood that Southland teams will not be around long enough to represent their city during the event April 4-5 at the Sports Arena. The fact that play begins at 9:30 a.m. to accommodate television won’t help attendance.

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Still, there are those who feel the popularity of women’s basketball has grown enough since 1984 to ensure success regardless of the city hosting the prestigious event.

“In 1982 the recorded attendance in women’s basketball games was 56,000, and last year it exceeded four million,” NCAA President Judith Sweet said. “In the 1990 Final Four in (Knoxville) Tennessee, there were 40,000 in attendance, almost the same number as those who observed (women’s) basketball the entire year throughout the country in 1982. And I have a feeling that number might be exceeded in Los Angeles this (season).”

Few, if any, share Sweet’s optimism that a Los Angeles Final Four could match a Tennessee Final Four in attendance, but most associated with the event are predicting a success.

“I am so positive it will be (successful), because we are doing everything we can possibly do,” Holland said.

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Holland, also chair of the NCAA women’s basketball committee, said this season’s Final Four has a better chance because it is a joint venture, including UCLA and co-host USC, the Los Angeles Sports Council and the Sports Arena. And a number of corporate sponsors have all but assured that the schools won’t lose money.

“We’ve been working on this now for over a year and a half,” Holland said.

About 2,000 tickets have been sold. That is ahead of the 1984 pace, but far behind that set two years ago at this time in Knoxville.

“We’re not going to exceed 40,000,” Holland said. “What I think we need to do for this to be a success is sell out the loge (section) and at least fill half of the upper deck. And we’re going to do it.”


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