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DIII committee proposes more joint basketball championships

Championships Committee recommends both men and women hold joint events by 2024

Division III men’s and women’s basketball may soon hold joint championships again with Divisions I and II.

At a meeting last week in Indianapolis, the Division III Championships Committee recommended that men’s and women’s basketball each hold one joint championship with their counterparts in Divisions I and II by the 2023-24 season.

The Division III Men’s and Women’s Basketball Committees brought a similar recommendation to the Championships Committee for consideration: The basketball committees asked that men’s and women’s basketball each hold two joint championships by 2030. The committees felt the inaugural joint championships — men’s basketball held one in 2013 in Atlanta, and women’s basketball held its event in 2016 in Indianapolis — were successes based on positive membership feedback and requests from members that similar events be held in the future. The joint events, the committees felt, offer opportunities to grow the sport, provide student-athletes unique, memorable experiences and promote the Division III identity. 

The Championships Committee weighed that rationale against the logistical and financial challenges joint events pose. The 2016 women’s championship, for instance, cost Division III approximately $250,000 more than in other years, and the basketball committees anticipate a similar cost for future joint events in both sports. Given those obstacles, the committee felt recommending one joint championship each for men’s and women’s basketball, not two, during the term of the current CBS/Turner broadcast agreement (which expires in 2023-24) was a prudent solution.

The Division III Strategic Planning and Finance Committee, Management Council and Presidents Council will consider the recommendation at future meetings, and the basketball committees will provide more information to help inform their discussion.  

“The joint basketball championships provide a great student-athlete experience in a venue that uniquely showcases Division III,” said Bill Stiles, Championships Committee chair and director of athletics at Alvernia. “We certainly appreciate the challenges, particularly extending the season for the participating teams, but believe they are outweighed by the positives.”

Regional alignment

The Division III Commissioners Association is in the midst of reviewing regional alignment across all Division III sports. Regions haven’t been adjusted in roughly a decade, and the commissioners group has begun working with the Championships Committee to craft a realignment proposal because some sports have experienced rapid growth in the intervening years. The groups’ goals are to maintain conference members in the same regions, to emphasize the importance of geographic proximity in regional placement and to balance the number of institutions in all regions.

At last week’s meeting, Championships Committee members offered feedback on the commissioners’ work in anticipation of putting forward recommendations, which could entail legislative proposals to alter sport committee composition, at the committee’s February meeting. 

“As sports sponsorship numbers continue to grow, a number of sport committees are discussing realignment to address significant imbalances in sports and regions, including institutions that have sports in three-to-four different regions,” Stiles said. “The concept is for the governance structure to work with the commissioners to take a global look at all sports, providing a framework that would provide conferences and institutions regional consistency among similar sports and a better way to balance the number of schools in sports regions while considering conference affiliation and geography. Consistency, clarity and flexibility for growth are paramount.”

Sport committee chairs weigh in

The Championships Committee also held a joint meeting with the chairs of each of Division III’s sport committees. In the session, the sport committee chairs offered feedback regarding improvements and enhancements to the championships experience they hope might be implemented in the coming years, including instituting higher per diems (the per diem is already set to rise to $100 in 2020-21), adding a day of rest for all team sports between competitions at the finals site, guaranteeing that conference opponents don’t meet in the first round of competition and increasing bench sizes at championships. The Championships Committee plans to send a survey to Division III athletics directors soon regarding the financial and logistical implications of expanding bench sizes. The committee will use the sport committee chairs’ feedback to inform the championships enhancements it will recommend at its February meeting.

Ice hockey selections pilot program

The Championships Committee approved a two-year pilot program recommended by the Division III Men’s and Women’s Ice Hockey Committees that will allow the committees to use the PairWise selection system to rank and select teams for championship competition. The software is already in use in Division I and has garnered positive feedback from coaches for its transparency. The change comes at no cost, and the committees will begin using PairWise during the 2018-19 season.