July 1, 2002
Norman, Okla. - The skyrocketing popularity of women's basketball at the University of Oklahoma passed another benchmark Monday when the NCAA awarded OU two of its post-season events.
Next March, OU will host first and second round games for the NCAA Tournament at the Lloyd Noble Center. The exact dates are yet to be determined, but will fall on either March 22 and 24 or March 23 and 25. In 2004, OU will host an NCAA regional at Lloyd Noble. The dates for that event will be either March 27 and 29 or March 28 and 30.
For Sooner coach Sherri Coale, the announcement further confirmed the growth of OU's women's program and the sport in general in Oklahoma.
"I think this is a reflection of the fan support we've been receiving, especially with the sellouts at the NCAA games we've hosted," she said. "The committee looked at this as a win-win situation to recognize what has been accomplished at past events here while also looking to provide student-athletes with an event that generates such great enthusiasm."
OU will have to win its way into both events, but Coale sees that as a goal her team can pursue.
"It's rewarding to see the university pledge this kind of support to women's basketball and our program, and we want that decided advantage of playing in front of the home crowd," she said.
OU Athletics Director Joe Castiglione was similarly pleased with the announcement.
"Sherri and her program have absolutely connected with our fans and the result has been electrifying," he said. "The selection committee deserves a lot of credit for recognizing one of the best atmospheres in all of women's basketball. We're excited about hosting and will fully exert ourselves to provide the optimum venue."
Sellout crowds jammed into Lloyd Noble to watch last season's first and second round games. Some 11,200 saw the OU and Hartford play, while 11,245 witnessed the OU-Villanova contest. The first and second round games at Norman during the 2001 post-season also sold out with an average attendance of 10,987.
"The games we've hosted here are among my favorite memories," Coale said. "That fan base has grown so much in the six years we've been here and walking out to that kind of crowd and reception is something you dream about. It means so much to our players and I am so happy for them that we have earned that distinction and that our university is providing another opportunity."
Ticket information for the first and second round games in 2003 and the regional in 2004 will be announced at a later date.