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Division II Championships Committee takes closer look at officiating fees

Group also approves championship changes in men’s and women’s soccer

A role typically managed by governing sports committees is getting some increased attention from the Division II Championships Committee.

During its February meeting in Indianapolis, the Championships Committee reviewed officiating fees at NCAA championships, kicking off a larger discussion on the state of officiating in Division II. Members talked about challenges conferences and sport committees face in attracting and hiring officials and the role fees play in ensuring quality officiating for years ahead.

A review of officiating fees occurs each year in Division II governing sports committees, yet the Championships Committee decided to take a deeper look. Division I completed an in-depth fee review in the summer of 2014, with the expectation that officiating fees will increase in phases over the next few years. Championships Committee members will take into consideration the upcoming Division II triennial budget cycle when discussing potential increases.

Focusing on education and skill development, officiating environment and retention of officials, the committee will explore options and continue the discussion at its next meeting in May.

“I do think we can improve our championships by addressing these points and by looking historically at what we’ve done and making the appropriate adjustments,” said Championships Committee member Jim Johnson, athletics director at Pittsburg State University. “I think we need to take a hard look at this. The timing is right, and I think this is the group that needs to do it.”

Committee members expressed concern when they learned that officials of some men’s championships were at times paid more than officials in the same sport on the women’s side. National office staff plan to gather additional data from membership on this issue and bring it back to the group for review.

Julie Ruppert, the commissioner of the Northeast-10 Conference, encouraged the division to invest in the development of officials. “In order for Division II to improve the quality of officiating across the board, we need to identify and develop our own,” she said. “There just isn’t enough quality if we don’t pursue this.”

Men’s soccer championship bids

The Championships Committee approved allocations of one additional championship bid to each of the Midwest, South and South Central regions, a request that had been made by the men’s soccer committee. The additional bids were the result of a recent bracket expansion in the men’s soccer championship beginning in the 2015-16 academic year and were awarded to the three regions with the highest ratio of student-athletes to championship participation.

Women’s soccer bench limit

The committee endorsed a change in women’s soccer that will increase the bench limit for the championship tournament from 28 individuals to 32. The change allows teams to seat three additional athletes and one extra staff member in the team area, effective for the 2015 championship season.

Committee members heard that, in most cases, regular-season roster sizes are larger than the current bench limit at championships, which causes some non-competing team members to watch from the stands. Enabling those athletes to sit on the sidelines is expected to enhance the team’s championship experience without impacting the budget, as additional mementos, awards, travel and per diem will not be provided. The number of players who can dress for competition will remain the same.

Other updates from the Division II Championships Committee meeting:

  • The Championships Committee continued a discussion regarding automatic qualification for championships brackets with fewer than 48 teams. The committee has been seeking input across the Division II membership to determine if it should recommend this expansion to automatic qualification to the Presidents Council, which could then sponsor a legislative proposal. About 70 percent of respondents to the 2013 Division II membership census favored the idea, as did participants at an educational session at the 2015 NCAA Convention. The Championships Committee is now looking to Division II sport committees, the Conference Commissioners Association and other governance groups to provide additional feedback.
  • A request to approve new regional allocations for the 56-team baseball championship was sent back to the Division II Baseball Committee for further review. The governing sport committee will revise its request for the Championships Committee’s consideration in May.
  • The Championships Committee encouraged the men’s lacrosse committee to focus on the division’s regionalization principles and access ratios as that committee explores changes to its current regional alignment. The lacrosse committee previously received feedback from membership through a survey last fall, but differences remain about which schools should be assigned to new regions.