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DI Council introduces championships resource allocation legislation

Changes intended to increase efficiency while protecting the championship experience

The Division I Council introduced several pieces of legislation into the 2020-21 cycle that are intended to ensure resources for Division I championships are allocated appropriately. The Council met by videoconference Tuesday and Wednesday.

The measures were recommended by the Championships Finance Review Group, which has been studying championships finances for nearly a year. The COVID-19 pandemic slowed the group’s timeline, and the group will continue its work into the future.

“Participating in an NCAA championship is the pinnacle of achievement for Division I student-athletes, and our members clearly want to ensure that experience is of the highest quality,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Pennsylvania. “These recommendations of the Championships Finance Review Group were broadly supported in a membership survey.”

The proposed legislation would:

  • Continue to restrict conference matchups in the first round of a championship but eliminate the restriction in subsequent rounds.
  • Change current legislation and policy governing how single-sport conferences earn automatic qualification to:
    • Reduce the current two-year grace period (if an existing single-sport conference drops below the six required schools) to one year.
    • For sports sponsored by fewer than 50 institutions, give sport committees the authority, when the number of conferences that meet automatic qualification criteria exceeds 50% of the field, to select the field in the manner it deems to be in the best interests of the championship and sport (for example, either use preset criteria to select among the automatic-qualifying conferences to maintain the 50% limit or select all teams at large).
  • Change current legislation and policy governing how multisport conferences earn automatic qualification to:
    • Maintain six as the number of members required that sponsor the sport but establish three as the number of core members necessary to be eligible for an automatic qualification.
    • Maintain the current two-year grace period but significantly restrict waiver exceptions.
    • Implement a one-year continuity-of-competition period once the threshold is reached.
  • Require member conferences (multisport and single sport) to submit automatic qualification information by Feb. 1 to be considered for the next academic year. (Example: A submission by Feb. 1, 2021, would provide for potential approval for 2021‐22. A submission beyond Feb. 1, 2021, would result in potential approval for 2022‐23.) The deadline will be codified in the Competition Oversight Committee’s policies rather than as legislation in order to allow for quicker modifications to the deadline process should they be warranted.
  • Prevent automatic qualifications (multisport and single-sport conferences) from being added to a bracket until funds are available and approved.

Two of the group’s original recommendations, the reduction of brackets and elimination of play-in games, need further discussion, especially as sport sponsorship continues to fluctuate due to COVID-19.  

“The legislative and policy changes recommended by the working group create efficiencies in championships operations without negatively impacting the experience,” said working group chair Lynda Tealer, executive associate athletics director at Florida. “We look forward to additional feedback on the legislative changes before the final vote.”

 The earliest the legislative actions could be considered for a final vote by the Council is January.