By David Pickle
The Division II Management Council approved the changes at its April 18-19 meeting in Indianapolis. The Division II Championships Committee had recommended the modifications.
Effective in 2011-12, the Great American Conference (composed of institutions in Arkansas and Oklahoma) will be placed in the South Central Region, along with the Lone Star and Heartland Conferences and the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. As a new conference, the Great American Conference will be eligible only for at-large selections in 2011-12.
Effective in 2012-13, the Great American and the MIAA will join the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference in the Central Region, and the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference will move to the South Central Region with the Heartland and Lone Star Conferences. By 2013-14, the Great American Conference will be eligible for automatic qualification.
“During our deliberations, we considered three models,” said Bill Fusco, chair of the Championships Committee and athletics director at Sonoma State. “We considered a number of factors in totality rather than as stand-alone items. However, at no time did we consider competitive factors, such as the historical or perceived strength of conferences.”
Those factors included:
Fusco noted that the realignment will be especially helpful in shortening travel distances in the affected regions.
“In these difficult economic times, we’re pleased that these new alignments will actually reduce travel in our two regions in the Midwest,” Fusco said. “We did consider an approach that would have reduced travel even more in those areas, but the model that was accepted did the best job of balancing the number of teams, protecting championship-access ratios and tightening the distance between schools within the regions.”
Division II Management Council chair Rick Cole, athletics director at Dowling, said the process of accommodating the new conference was consistent with previous practice.
“There was ample time for the membership to comment and to offer suggestions and feedback,” Cole said. “Regionalization was discussed at a Convention education session. In short, the approach was similar to the one we have used for the last 5, 10 or 20 years.”
The Championships Committee also added a regionalization principle to clarify that teams in the Atlantic and East Regions will be able to consider games against the University of District of Columbia as in-region contests. District of Columbia will join the East Coast Conference this fall after having been an independent.