By Jim Johnson
Regionalization is a principle on which Division II has thrived for years. It’s one of the ideals that make our division unique, ensuring schools in every region of the country have fair access to championships. But our philosophy also supports conducting championships that are nationally competitive. It is this philosophical “challenge” that has led the Division II Championships Committee to take a comprehensive look at the principles of regionalization over the past year.
The end result of that study is that regionalization as a guiding philosophy continues to work well, especially for regular-season competition and scheduling. However, it has become evident that we need to further discuss whether regionalization still appropriately transfers to postseason selection and bracketing in a way that enables us to provide national-level competition and quality experiences in our championships. To that end, the committee recommended the formation of a group to take a comprehensive and honest look at how we select and bracket teams and to determine if there is a way to provide a better experience.
Since the last look at regionalization, the membership profile of the division has changed more than 90 times: New members have been accepted, new conferences formed and others dissolved. We have added championships and expanded brackets. We have invested additional money in the administration of championships. We have drawn (and redrawn) the regional map. We have initiated (and, arguably, perfected) the championships festival, and we have adopted required selection criteria for all sports.
The next step is the objective and creative look at how we might improve selection and bracketing to provide a quality and unique championship experience — and to make those changes within our current budget model, as much as is possible.
It appears there may be an appetite to creatively provide a way to face nonconference opponents in the postseason more often and get the “best” teams to the finals. It may be the best opportunity we have to showcase the talents of the individuals who have embraced the brand “Make It Yours!”
Jim Johnson is the athletics director at Pittsburg State University and chair of the Division II Championships Committee.