DALLAS (AP) — The NCAA has an entirely female crew working the national semifinals and championship game at the women’s Final Four this weekend.
It’s the first time that’s ever happened, according to the organization. The NCAA is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Title IX this year, which makes it fitting that there’s all-female crews.
“We celebrate this accomplishment with all of those who paved a way and broken barriers as we play our role in growing this great game,” NCAA coordinator of officials Penny Davis said.
Dee Kantner will be officiating her 26th Final Four while Lisa Jones will be doing her 11th. It’s the first Final Four for Katie Lukanich and Tiara Cruse.
The officiating crew has a combined 293 seasons of Division I experience that includes 48 Final Four and national championship assignments. Nine of the 11 women have played college basketball, including seven former Division I players.
“I hope that the student-athletes and fans see these women as an inspiration and the opportunity to contribute to the game through officiating,” Davis said.
JOINING A SMALL CLUB
Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks is only the third Black male to lead his team to the women’s Final Four. He joined good friend Quentin Hillsman, who took Syracuse to the title game in 2016. Winthrop McGriff helped Cheyney make the Final Four in 1984.
Brooks understands how important it is what he’s doing.
“Everything that I am doing, yes, I’m doing it for myself, for my program, for our university, but I’m also doing it for people who look like me because there are a lot of great male Black coaches,” Brooks said. “(They) deserve an opportunity and if people can look at me and see what I’ve done and that inspires them to give another Black male an opportunity, then my job is well done.”
Hillsman was proud of his friend and told The Associated Press in a phone interview that his advice to Brooks was to step back and take it all in. Hillsman said he didn’t do that enough when he guided Syracuse to the championship game against UConn.
“He and I have been texting back and forth a little bit,” Hillsman said. “I said, hey, make sure you enjoy it.’ Really enjoy it. Freeze the moment. You’re going to regret it later if you don’t.’”