Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw miffed over late tipoff time

Ken Klimek
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND — It may not be best for the athletes.

It may not be best for fans wanting to attend the game.

But television rules.

Sunday’s 9 p.m. tipoff for the NCAA women's basketball tourney second-round game, pitting Notre Dame (31-3) against Purdue (23-12), is a good example.

Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, already aggravated by a lingering severe cold, had her mood even soured more by the game time decision.

“That is a ridiculous time to play a basketball game,” said McGraw, noting that the entire afternoon was available.

“It is bad for the student-athletes who have to get to class on Monday, bad for the team that has to travel and will be detrimental to our attendance,” McGraw said.

The Irish normally average more than 8,300 fans per game, and a full house could have been expected with the addition of Boilermaker fans had the game been scheduled at a more opportune time.

Notre Dame is guessing that only about one third of that number now will attend the contest at Purcell Pavilion.

“We would have anticipated a great crowd, but many fans have kids who have to attend school the next morning,” said McGraw. “It was a really bad decision by the NCAA.”

The Irish have a large, devoted and rabid fan base, and many are in the middle age or older demographic who will find a late start unsettling.

Notre Dame reportedly was considering some incentives to help build attendance, but the NCAA reportedly has restrictions to what is allowable in that area.

Nonetheless, Notre Dame is offering concession vouchers to the first 500 children (age 18 and under) in pajamas. The Irish were working on a pajama party theme for this basketball showdown.

Jill Bodensteiner, senior associate athletic director at Notre Dame, was on the NCAA tourney selection committee this year. She mentioned some reasons the NCAA went to a 9 p.m. start.

“We are the second largest women’s basketball draw,” she said after the Notre Dame Saturday press conference.

She said the largest demographic to watch the games are 18 to 35-year-olds, who favor that start time.

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw is up in arms over the team's 9 p.m. tipoff for its second-round NCAA Tournament game Sunday with Purdue. (Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)