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DII Championships Committee addresses soccer field size

Recommendation from men’s and women’s soccer committees advances

The Division II Championships Committee has supported a move to ensure all NCAA tournament soccer games in Division II are played on fields that comply with the 2015-16 rules book.

The proposal, approved during the committee’s May 28-29 meeting in Indianapolis, would also eliminate a grandfather clause in place for fields built before 1995. The field-size policy applies only when a school wants to host any round of the Division II championship in men’s and women’s soccer and not for the regular season.

The Division II men’s and women’s soccer committees brought forward the recommendation, which would require that championship soccer matches be held only on fields that meet specific dimension requirements. Since 1995, the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Soccer Rules Book has listed that soccer fields “shall be rectangular, with a length of 115-120 yards and a width of 70-75 yards.” However, soccer fields built before 1995 – when the only requirements were that they be longer than they were wide – have been grandfathered in, enabling play to continue on smaller fields in both the regular season and during championships.

The Championships Committee voted in favor of the recommendation to essentially remove the grandfather clause for championships and hold all schools in position to host a championship round to the standards set in the rules book. Under the recommendation, if a region’s No. 1 seed does not have a field that meets the standard, it would still have the opportunity to host at another field in its community. If that is not possible, then the next highest seed that meets the requirements would earn the right to host.

The Division II Management Council and Presidents Council will review the recommendation later this summer. If approved by the councils, the change would take effect Sept. 1, 2016.

“At some point, the grandfathering has to end, otherwise no one is going to make adjustments,” said Fran Reidy, committee chair and athletics director at Saint Leo University. “This is one of those rules that, after 20 years, we have to give a gentle push.”

Automatic qualification

The Championships Committee is continuing to explore the concept of automatic qualification for championships brackets with fewer than 48 teams. The potential change to the automatic qualification legislation has been one of the committee’s key topics of discussion in recent years. Under current legislation, automatic qualification will only be considered for sports that have a championship bracket of 48 or more teams.

The Championships Committee has been gathering feedback through membership surveys and discussions among sport committees and conferences to inform its decision. About 70 percent of people who responded to the Division II membership census in 2013 favored the change to automatic qualification, and a similar percentage favored the change during polling at the 2015 NCAA Convention. 

The Championships Committee recently sent a survey to Division II governing sports committees, the Management Council, the Athletics Directors Association and Conference Commissioners Association to request feedback on the issue. Once all the feedback is gathered, the committee is expected to decide whether to recommend that the Presidents Council sponsor a legislative proposal to eliminate the rule that prohibits automatic qualification for team sports with brackets smaller than 48 teams. 

Travel party size, team/squad size, and bench size

Following a request from the women’s soccer committee to increase the bench limit size for the Division II women’s soccer tournament, the Championships Committee decided to review the sizes of travel parties, squads and benches for all championships.

Differences currently exist in many sports concerning travel party size, which is the number of people whose travel the NCAA pays for; squad size, which is the number of players in uniform; and bench size, which is the number of people who sit on the bench, including coaches, personnel and other players not dressing for competition.

The Championships Committee is seeking input from each Division II sport committee to gain a better understanding of the current limits and the differences across sports in those three categories.

Other actions

  • The committee is also seeking feedback related to the transparency of data used for team rankings and championships selections. It recently sent a survey to Division II membership and various groups inquiring about the amount of championship selection data they would support being shared with members. Both Division I and Division III currently provide selection criteria information to their members.
  • The committee referred back to the Division II Baseball Committee a proposal for new regional assignments for the 56-team baseball championship. The baseball committee brought forward two models for allocating teams to the regional round, but the Championships Committee expressed its continued concern about equity among teams in different regions and championship access ratios. The baseball committee will have an opportunity to present a new proposal to the Championships Committee before a final decision is made.