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DIII Championships Committee addresses regional concerns via selection criteria

Triennial budget recommendations also submitted

By Gary Brown

The Division III Championships Committee has endorsed changes in team selection criteria designed to strengthen institutions’ commitment to in-region play while giving sport committees the flexibility to determine regional alignments under specific guidelines.

Meeting Feb. 22-23 in Indianapolis, committee members voted to include as part of the primary selection criteria for team sports the requirement that institutions play at least 70 percent of their competition against Division III in-region opponents beginning with the 2013-14 academic year. 

While that’s an increase from the current 50 percent, the Championships Committee also agreed that all contests against Division III institutions would be included in the primary criteria (with non-Division III competition included in the secondary criteria). 

In addition to boosting the in-region requirement to align with the regional emphasis in the Division III philosophy, the changes address the age-old “game is a game” concern in which all contests against Division III institutions will be weighted equally when sport committees compare teams (versus the current method in which the initial evaluation is based only on in-region competition). 

Championships Committee members also agreed that sport committees will continue to have flexibility to establish regional boundaries for selection purposes but must abide by the following principles in establishing those boundaries:

  • Members of conferences must remain in the same region (unless the Championships Committee is asked to exempt a conference per NCAA bylaws); 
  • Sport committees must consider equitable numbers among regions as much as possible (both for competitive-equity purposes and logistical concerns such as postseason awards and workload for regional advisory committee members);
  • Sport committees shall rank no more than 15 percent of teams in each region, with a minimum of six (for regions with less sponsorship); and  
  • Committees must apply a consistent region nomenclature.

Pending approval from the Division III Management Council, those selection criteria changes and regional guidelines would be effective for the 2013-14 academic year.

“The idea is to be true to the Division III philosophy of emphasizing in-region competition without compromising a sport committee’s ability to evaluate teams,” said New Paltz State Athletics Director and committee chair Stuart Robinson. 

Robinson said the committee recommended the changes after a year-long debate in the membership about how to make regional alignments more consistent proved inconclusive. Division III stakeholders had been concerned why some schools were in different regions depending on a given sport, why region nomenclature differed by sport, and why certain regions were allowed to rank more teams than others, among other inconsistencies. That prompted a comprehensive review of whether “regionalization” could be more uniform per sport, particularly in the number of regions based on sport sponsorship, the number of schools in each region and the percentage of schools that could be listed in regional rankings.

Ensuing feedback from sport committees, conference commissioners and others over the last year, however, did not point to a one-size-fits-all solution, which prompted the Championships Committee to take a different approach at its most recent meeting. 

“Rather than continue wrangling with region size and nomenclature, the committee decided to enhance consistency through selection criteria, which we believe will affect regional alignment in ways people wanted the initial exercise to do,” Robinson said.

Robinson emphasized that the committee took membership feedback and analysis, including survey results from the Division III Commissioners Association, into account before making a decision. That included research showing only a handful of institutions that were selected for postseason play in the last three years that weren’t already scheduling at least 70 percent of their regular-season games against in-region opponents.  

“It became increasingly clear that we weren’t going to solve the regionalization problems by trying to make regional alignment more uniform across sports, because there were just too many unique circumstances facing various sports that weren’t applicable to other sports,” Robinson said. “In other words, there was utility in having the conversation, but the practical application had too many unwanted ripple effects. Approaching the situation by making the primary selection criteria more uniform and by providing more guidance in establishing regions should get us pretty close to where we wanted to be in the first place.”

Robinson said the committee will review the current in-region requirement for golf and tennis (25 percent) to determine whether it also should be increased to emphasize in-region competition. He also said the committee considered expanding the 200-mile radius used in defining in-region competition to 500 miles but decided against it, believe it wouldn’t help the teams it was designed to assist (teams in the west, for example).  

The Management Council will consider these recommendations at its April 16-17 meeting.

Triennial budget

The Championships Committee also made preliminary recommendations for the next budget cycle, which for the first time is being managed over a three-year term instead of the usual two-year cycle.

Relying on principles the committee agreed upon earlier this year to prioritize budget requests that more fully fund the student-athlete experience at championships, the committee endorsed allocating almost $1 million toward such non-inflationary items for 2012-13, the first year of the triennium. 

Primary among the first-year allocations are increases in the travel party for 10 sports, in accordance with a review the committee conducted last year about bench size at championships. That came after a membership proposal at the 2011 NCAA Convention seeking to give institutions the discretion to determine the appropriate number of student-athletes allowed in the bench area at various Division III championships produced a resolution to study the matter further.

The Division III Championships Committee earlier had suggested that growth in the number of student-athletes taking part in the championships experience come through increasing the squad size and travel party for participating teams. That is being handled at the institutions’ expense this year but will be funded going forward if the budget recommendation is approved.

The increases are in baseball (1), field hockey (2), football (6), men’s ice hockey (2), women’s ice hockey (2), men’s lacrosse (4), men’s soccer (2), women’s soccer (2), men’s tennis (1) and women’s tennis (1). Those increases total $448,000 in new funding.

The committee also recommended an additional half day of per diem for participants in individual/team sports as part of the first-year allocations. A similar increase for team sports is planned for the third year of the triennium. 

Following are the recommendations for all three years:

Year one (2012-13)  

Reserve base budget adjustments
Travel party increases in 10 sports ($448,000)
Increase per diem days for individual/team sports ($251,000)
Increase per diem days in men’s and women’s golf from 5.5 to 6.0 ($7,600)
Funding for four regional qualifying meets in diving ($4,000)
Funding for independent diving judges ($8,120)
Championships enhancement ($75,000)
Joint field hockey championship ($5,500)
Increased number of finalists for wrestling ($16,000)*
*preliminary allocation; remains under review
Total new allocations – $815,220

Inflationary adjustments
Student-athlete per diem ($5 per day per travel party member) ($352,000)

Year two (2013-14)

Reallocations from base budget
Softball super regionals ($426,000)
Increased field size for men’s and women’s indoor track ($127,000)
Championships enhancement ($75,000)
Increases in fees for officials and evaluators ($48,600)*
*total derived from combining individual budget requests per sport; allocation will be further reviewed
Total new allocations – $676,000

Inflationary adjustments
Student-athlete per diem ($5 per day per travel party member) ($352,000)

Year three (2014-15)

Reallocations from base budget
Increased field size for women’s golf ($16,000)
Increase per diem days for team sports ($872,000)
Enhancements in women’s rowing ($4,500)*
*preliminary allocation; remains under review
Total new allocations – $892,500

Inflationary adjustments
Student-athlete per diem ($5 per day per travel party member) ($352,000)

TOTAL NEW ALLOCATIONS FOR 2012-15 $2,384,320
TOTAL BUDGET REQUESTS FOR 2012-15 $3,440,320

The committee’s budget recommendations go to the Division III Strategic Planning and Finance Committee for initial review during the SPFC’s conference call on March 9. The Division III Management and Presidents Councils also will consider the recommendations at their April meetings.

Future championship sites

The Championships Committee supported a field hockey committee recommendation to hold the 2013 Division III championship in Virginia Beach, Va., as part of a joint championship with Divisions I and II. Virginia Wesleyan College and the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau will serve as the hosts. 

The Division III semifinals will be at the USA Field Hockey National Training Center and the championship game will be at Old Dominion University where the Divisions I and II championship games will also be played. The field hockey committee recommended that one additional travel day be allowed to provide for a joint championship experience with all three divisions of field hockey. 

The Championships Committee also approved a change of venue for the 2013 Men’s and Women’s Golf Championships. The original site at the PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, Fla., is no longer available due to unforeseen circumstances. The golf committees recommended that Destin, Fla., be designated as the new site. Methodist University will remain as the host for the competition to be conducted at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort.

The following also were approved to host regionals for the 2012 Division III Baseball Championship: 

  • Central – USA Stadium in Millington, Tenn. (Rhodes College, host)
  • Mid-Atlantic – First Energy Park in Lakewood, N.J. (Kean University, host)
  • Mideast – Don Schaly Stadium in Marietta, Ohio (Marietta College, host) 
  • Midwest – Prucha Field in Whitewater, Wis. (University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, host)
  • New England – Mansfield Complex in Mansfield, Conn. (Eastern Connecticut State University, host)
  • New York – Baseball Complex in Farmingdale, N.Y. (State University of New York at Farmingdale, host)
  • South – Captains Park in Newport News, Va. (Christopher Newport University, host)
  • West – Roy Helser Field in McMinnville, Ore. (Linfield College, host)

Other highlights

In other items at the Division III Championships Committee’s Feb. 22-23 meeting, members:

  • Noted that based on 2011-12 sport sponsorship for Division III baseball and men’s basketball, and the 1:6.5 access ratio policy the Championships Committee uses to determine bracket expansion, the brackets for the Division III Baseball and Men’s Basketball Championships will increase from 55 to 56 teams and from 61 to 62 teams, respectively, for the 2012 championships.
  • Approved a request from the Division III Women’s Lacrosse Committee to expand the bracket for the 2012 championship from 31 to 32 teams for the 2013 championship, rather than the 33 teams permitted based on the access ratio. Based on feedback from stakeholders, and because the 2013 championship is being held jointly with Division II, the committee prefers the 32-team format over compressing the expanded format a 33-team bracket would require. The committee noted its intention to expand the bracket to 33 teams and expand the championship date formula by one week for the 2014 championship.
  • Approved a request from the Division III Women’s Volleyball Committee to revise the championship date formula for the 2012 and 2013 championships so that the regionals are played Friday-Sunday instead of Thursday-Saturday. 
  • Referred an issue regarding Major Junior A Hockey, including whether to extend the organized-competition legislation for Major Junior to apply to Junior A, to the Division III Men’s Ice Hockey Committee for further review.