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DIII Championships Committee supports regional realignment

Group also sets budget priorities for the coming years

Significant regional realignment may be coming soon to Division III sports.

At a meeting last week in Indianapolis, the Division III Championships Committee expressed support for a detailed proposal from the Division III Commissioners Association that would reconfigure regions across Division III. A subcommittee within the Commissioners Association, composed of eight conference commissioners from around the country, has been working with the Championships Committee, sport committees and Division III membership in recent years to address the topic.

The Championships Committee will work with the Division III Management Council and sport committees on a timeline for implementation, perhaps as early as the 2020-21 academic year.

The last major change to regional alignment in the division came in the 2007-08 academic year. Since that time, some sports have seen substantial growth, which often has been geographically disproportionate. That has led to unbalanced regions, which can cause difficulties in the selection process and in crafting regional rankings, among other issues.

Given those challenges, the Championships Committee and Commissioners Association subcommittee have worked to collect data and explore different realignment models with the goals of maintaining conference members in the same regions, placing an importance on geographic proximity in regional placement, and balancing the number of institutions across all regions.

After weighing various models, the Commissioners Association subcommittee settled on one that made regional allotments based on sport sponsorship, which provides flexibility based on the number of schools sponsoring a given sport and does not increase national committee sizes in a blanket fashion.

The new model seeks to have roughly 40 teams in each region. Sports that have 40-149 sponsors would have two regions; sports sponsored by 150-374 schools would have five to eight regions; and sports with 375 or more sponsors would have nine to 10 regions. In tennis, additional review will take place to determine the appropriate number of regions given that selections for the individual portion of the tournament are dependent on the alignment.

In most instances, the total number of regions in each sport would increase by two, three or four. The changes will require that some national committees expand to account for new regional representatives on those committees. Also, some conferences would be moved from their current regions.

“I am grateful to the DIII Commissioners Association for their work with sport committee chairs on a regional alignment model that is principled on geographic consistency and balancing the number of institutions across all regions,” said Bill Stiles, Championships Committee chair and director of athletics at Alvernia. “This will allow for more efficient review of teams for ranking and championship selection, while also providing a road map for future growth in membership and/or sport sponsorship.”

The Championships Committee approved some requests for regional realignment that will go into effect early. Men’s lacrosse realignment (expanding from two regions to five) and women’s lacrosse realignment (expanding from five regions to seven) will be effective in the coming academic year. And women’s golf will maintain its current five regions, but will shift conferences within those regions to ensure they are better balanced.

Future budget priorities

The Championships Committee held a wide-ranging discussion regarding budget priorities for the forthcoming budget cycle, beginning with the 2019-20 academic year. The committee did not make any formal recommendations but, relying on feedback from membership and sport committees, emphasized implementing the following:

  • Increasing bracket sizes in a range of sports mandated by the division’s championships access ratio.
  • Increasing sport committee composition to coincide with the Commissioners Association’s regional realignment proposal.
  • Increasing officiating fees by 5 percent over two years.
  • Guaranteeing that conference opponents do not meet in the first round of NCAA championship competition.
  • A handful of sport-by-sport requests, including an increase in the stipend for the national coordinator of officials in men’s and women’s basketball, football and baseball.

Those championships enhancements, taken together, would carry a nearly $800,000 cost for the 2019-20 academic year and a roughly $85,000 cost in 2020-21.

The Championships Committee already had recommended increasing the per diem for hosts of nonpredetermined preliminary round championships sites by $5, and increasing the per diem for all championships participants to $100. Both will be effective in 2020-21 and will carry a $429,000 estimated cost.

The Division III Strategic Planning and Finance Committee will evaluate these priorities — and their related costs — at a future meeting.