STORRS, Conn. – Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma says he wants people in women's basketball to start talking about how to make the game more exciting and attractive to fans.
He is trying to spark that conversation by suggesting the rims be lowered by at least 7 inches for the women's game.
"I think if we want to get to where other sports are in terms of appealing more to more people, you have to evolve," he said Thursday. "I'm trying to help those teams that can't figure out why they get only 200 people to watch them play every night."
Auriemma's argument is the combination of shorter players, the high rims, and a smaller ball (which doesn't stay on the rim as long) leads to a women's game that is less exciting to watch.
Over the past 10 years, the shooting percentage for men has hovered at right about 44 percent, according to STATS LLC. The high was 44.2 percent in 2006 and the low was 43.5 percent in 2009. The women have been shooting closer to 40 percent, with a low of 39 percent last season, down from a high of 40.8 percent in 2002. Only 11 women's programs shot 45 percent or better last year, compared to 109 for the men.
Auriemma points out that volleyball nets are lower for women, tees are placed closer to the hole for female golfers and softball diamonds are smaller than those used in baseball.
"I never said we should make it the men's game," Auriemma said Thursday. "All I said is I would like to have a scenario explored where women can have the same success around the rim that men have. Is that too much to ask?"
There was a mixed reaction to Auriemma's suggestion from his colleagues across the country.
"You can go to the rec center, and you can go to an elementary gym, a high school gym, you can go to an arena like American Airlines and the goals are 10-foot tall, and you can shoot on them and get better," Oklahoma's Sherri Coale said. "I don't think we want to put ourselves in a situation where we have to find a women's goal so we can get better as players."
Others just don't think it's practical to change the height of every basket from elementary schools to the WNBA.
"I don't see it, cost-efficient wise, I don't see how they could do it," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. "I don't know how you do that because from the grassroots on, you're going to lower the goal."
But Auriemma also has supporters. TCU coach Jeff Mitte said it's at least worth talking about.
"We need to make some bold choices in women's basketball, and I think we need to do bold things," he said. "That is outside the box thinking, and I think that those type of discussions need to be had, because it is a different game than the men's game."
There was also a mixed response from the players.
Baylor star Brittney Griner said she doesn't see a need for a change, then the 6-foot-8 center joked, "I might have a couple of more injuries hitting my elbow and stuff on it."
But UConn guard Caroline Doty said it might be fun.
"I wouldn't be able to dunk, so it wouldn't benefit me," she said. "But it would be cool to throw alley-oops and stuff."
Auriemma said his point is that something needs to be done to grow the game and spark more interest from fans. He also suggested other changes, such as an 8 or 10-second rule for bringing the ball across half-court and putting the shot clock at 24 rather than 30 seconds.
"I'm just throwing things out there," he said. "You don't have to lower the rim; you don't have to do anything ... but I think if you want to get to where other sports are in terms of appealing more to more people, you have to evolve."
The NCAA issued a statement Thursday saying it has no plans to discuss Auriemma's proposed rule changes.
But Carol Callan, director of women's basketball for USA Basketball, said those types of issues have been under discussion by the international basketball federation, FIBA, for some time. She said that while changing the rim height for baskets around the world would be a daunting task, it should not be dismissed out of hand.
"All ideas should be considered good ideas," she said. "Get them out on the table and discuss them. Once you discuss them, then you can pick out the ones that really are the best ideas, and I think that's really what Geno is trying to do."
AP Sports Writers John Zenor in Hoover, Ala, Stephen Hawkins in Dallas and AP freelance writer Jack McCarthy in Rosemont, Ill. contributed to this report.