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DIII Championships Committee advances realignment discussion

Group also tackles bench sizes at championships

The Division III Championships Committee convened last month in Indianapolis, weighing in on membership-sponsored legislation and advancing the ongoing regional realignment discussion, among other topics.

Regional realignment

The Championships Committee took another important step to advance the ongoing discussion regarding regional realignment in Division III. The committee has been working closely with the Division III Commissioners Association and the division’s sport committees to better balance geographic proximity, the number of institutions in regions and competitive equity, among other factors. After soliciting feedback from sport committees regarding how to better take competitive balance into consideration with either an eight-region or 10-region model, the committee supported a 10-region approach and will pass the concept on to the commissioners’ group for further feedback.

“The Championships Committee believes the current model of eight regions in those sports did not provide the optimal balance in terms of numbers of schools in each region,” Jacobs said. “The 10-region model allows for more balance in terms of number of schools and regional opponents.”

2020 Men’s Basketball Championship changes

The Championships Committee recommended that the Management Council approve a waiver permitting alcohol sales at the 2020 Division III Men’s Basketball Championship, in accordance with recently adopted legislation that permits alcohol sales at Division III championships held in conjunction with Division I in the same venue. In 2020, the Division I Championship will be held in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, while the Division II and III championships will be contested at the adjacent State Farm Arena. To ensure a consistent experience for fans at all events, the committee recommended sales be permitted for Division III contests as well.

Also, to account for schedule changes to accommodate the joint championship, the committee recommended that the final eight teams in the 2020 event play both the quarterfinal and semifinal games on March 20 and 21 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The format will maintain the traditional championship dates and eliminate the impact the joint championship might have had on regular season and conference tournaments.

Membership process proposals

The Championships Committee recommended the Division III governance structure oppose a pair of membership-sponsored 2020 Convention proposals that seek to amend the reclassifying and provisional member processes. The first proposal, sponsored by the American Collegiate Athletic Association, American Southwest Conference and USA South Athletic Conference, calls for the application process for provisional institutions seeking admission into Division III to be reduced from four years to three years (plus the usual exploratory year). The second, sponsored by the same trio of conferences, seeks to make the same reduction in the timeline for schools seeking to reclassify into Division III from another NCAA Division.

“The Championships Committee believes four years is the appropriate timeline to earn active membership,” said Kiki Jacobs, committee chair and director of athletics, intramurals and recreation at Roger Williams. “The proposed modifications potentially compromise an institution’s readiness to fully comply with Division III policies and abide by Division III values, and they potentially increase the pressure on the Division III Membership Committee to make decisions based on a shorter timeline. In addition, the current process includes a waiver provision to expedite the process for exemplary institutions.”

The Division III Management and Presidents Councils will review the proposals at their meetings later this month.

Championship bench size adjustments

Per feedback from Division III sport committees, the Championships Committee adopted expanded bench sizes across a range of sports to enhance the experience for student-athletes not competing in the event. The bench size increases are in line with results from a survey sent to athletics directors earlier this year that indicated support for bench sizes that would accommodate additional student-athletes at the institution’s expense, and without corresponding increases to the travel party size. The following changes will be effective for championships beginning in 2020-21:

Sport Squad size New bench size (in feet)
Baseball 25 35
Field Hockey 24 40
Football 58 78
Men’s Ice Hockey 22 30
Women’s Ice Hockey 22 30
Men’s Lacrosse 32 TBD
Women’s Lacrosse 28 42
Men’s Soccer 24 40
Women’s Soccer 24 40
Softball 20 32
Men’s and Women’s Tennis 9 15
Men’s Volleyball 17 25
Women’s Volleyball 17 25