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Division II regionalization review comes to end

Working group disbands after 18 months, concludes current model is still best

The Division II Regionalization Working Group has completed an 18-month review of the division’s regionalization model for national championships, ultimately determining the model should continue to be a core tenet of Division II with no significant changes.

The Division II Championships Committee endorsed eight recommendations from the Regionalization Working Group last summer, many of which articulated the working group’s conclusion that regionalization remains the best option for Division II, but encouraged further exploration of certain concepts. In February at its in-person meeting, the Championships Committee completed its discussion on the recommendations.

Regionalization is a Division II championships model that ensures schools in every region of the country have access to Division II championships. The model was established on the idea that sport committees should evaluate and select championships participants based on regional results, rather than a national evaluation. It also encourages schools to compete against opponents within their geographical regions, a scheduling incentive that helps schools manage travel budgets and limit missed class time for student-athletes.

Results from the 2018 Division II membership census show strong support for the regionalization model, with 90 percent of presidents and chancellors and 75 percent of athletics directors indicating their support. Among the constituent groups that responded to the census, coaches showed the most variance in their support, with 51 percent supporting regionalization, 20 percent remaining neutral and 29 percent not supporting the model.

Still, the Regionalization Working Group, composed of 10 Division II athletics administrators, explored ideas to address some of the concerns related to the model, including reducing the number of times teams from the same conference meet in the first round of national championship play. However, the working group realized that eliminating those matchups altogether would prove cost-prohibitive, says Fran Reidy, athletics director at Saint Leo and chair of the working group. “If we had spent resources trying to avoid first-round regional matchups, I think it would have hurt the overall division,” he says. “There’s only so much funding.”

As part of its recommendations, the working group encouraged the Championships Committee to seek more membership feedback on one particular guiding principle of regionalization. The committee sought input from Division II conferences on the following statement:

“The Division II regionalization philosophy provides access to national championships from every region of the country. Regionalization does not guarantee that the best eight programs in the country will compete for a national championship, but it does guarantee that the different regions of the country will be represented at the championship by each region’s best team.”

The principle did not garner much feedback, indicating to the Championships Committee that members did not have great interest in pursuing a change. The Championships Committee concluded that the division should continue to guarantee representation from each region at the championship final sites.

The discussion marks the completion of the regionalization review and the end of the working group.

“I think the biggest thing that came out of the working group was that it got some discussion started about how we can have better championships,” Reidy says.

Division II plans to periodically examine the regionalization model, most likely launching another review to coincide with the next Division II census in 2023.