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Championship squad, bench sizes won’t change in DIII

Committee also approves new women’s volleyball championship format

Though roster sizes are swelling in some Division III sports as athletics departments strive to help meet their schools’ enrollment demands, the number of student-athletes allowed to dress or be on the bench for NCAA championship events will remain at current levels.  

At a meeting last week in Indianapolis, the Division III Championships Committee denied requests from sport committees representing men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball to increase bench and squad sizes at championships to accommodate growing rosters.

“One of the primary concerns was a sense that it will never ‘be enough’ in terms of what the bench size number should be,” said Corey Borchardt, Championships Committee chair and commissioner of the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference. “So, increasing that number slightly will still not eliminate various sports’ desire to continue increasing that number.”

Committee members also expressed concerns that adding more people in a dugout or along the sideline could place extra strain on event hosts and site managers. Space limitations at some venues could also pose problems if bench or squad sizes were increased. Though the committee denied the requests and does not want to set a precedent for increases across a range of sports, it has taken steps in recent months to account for growing roster sizes. In February, the committee recommended funds be allocated for travel party size increases in select sports. That recommendation has since been approved by the Division III Management Council and will be effective in the coming academic year.

“Though we did not move forward with increasing any bench size maximums, the Championships Committee is excited that the travel party sizes will increase starting in 2017-18, as this will directly benefit participating member institutions,” Borchardt said.

Other actions:

  • The committee approved a one-year trial of a new Division III Women’s Volleyball Championship format. The final eight teams remaining after regional competition will be reseeded to better balance bracket play at the finals site. The discussion of the potential change in volleyball triggered a larger dialogue about the potential for the concept to be implemented in other sports. The committee will rely on feedback after the volleyball trial year to decide whether the change should be made on a permanent basis, and to inform any decisions regarding similar recommendations that may arise for other sports. Baseball implemented a similar change for the 2017 championship, although that action was taken to move away from determining first-round matchups based on an eight-year regional rotation.

    “We approved the volleyball request on a one-year trial as it is our understanding that other sport committees are discussing this concept or may formally request to reseed the finals site for their championship,” Borchardt said. “Our committee wants to gather more feedback from all applicable sport committees and do an assessment of the volleyball trial year in 2017 before we take a formal position across all sports.”
  • The committee expressed a desire to further discuss and potentially develop legislation regarding the implementation of conference scheduling standards. The standards would pertain to eligibility for an automatic qualification spot at NCAA championships. Some committee members voiced concern about teams in some conferences not playing at all through the regular season and, in some cases, not even in a postseason tournament (should not all teams qualify). The Championships Committee will work in concert with the Division III Membership Committee to consider different ways to address the issue and formulate language for potential legislation. The discussion will continue through the year.
  • Prompted by a recommendation from the Men’s and Women’s Soccer Committees, the Championships Committee discussed, at length, the concept of an off day at the finals site between the semifinal and championship rounds in select sports. Given the potential budget impact, the Championships Committee did not act on the request. It will, though, gather feedback from sport committees and data relevant to health and safety as it continues the discussion and gauges whether such a change may be appropriate for Division III in the future.
  • The Championships Committee reviewed information from the Division III Wrestling Committee regarding its ongoing request for regional realignment. The Championships Committee’s feedback will help the Wrestling Committee shape a formal proposal that it will bring to the Championships Committee for a decision in September.