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Division III committee recommends bracket expansions, per diem increases

Championship fields in as many as 7 sports are poised to grow in 2016-17

The Division III Championships Committee made several recommendations this month to improve championships access and enhance student-athletes’ experience at those events.

The committee’s recommendations, made at a Feb. 9-10 meeting in Indianapolis, come amid ongoing fiscal constraints, so finding balance between access and cost was the committee’s primary charge. The recommendations will be reviewed by the Division III Strategic Planning and Finance Committee this spring.

The Championships Committee reaffirmed its previous support for three key changes that hinged on funding from a proposed membership dues increase. The increase was adopted by members at the 2016 NCAA Convention and, should the three recommendations be approved, the additional funds will be used beginning in 2017-18 to reintroduce a championships host per diem at a rate of $30, to increase per diem for championships participants from $90 to $95 and to increase the field size for the Division III Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships.

The committee also discussed and reaffirmed its support for championship enhancements it had backed in concept last fall for wrestling, rowing and football. Together, the changes would carry a cumulative annual price tag of $57,230.

Based on sport-sponsorship tallies from 2015-16 and legislated access ratios, brackets in nine sports were slated to grow in the 2016-17 academic year, but the committee recommended only seven for expansion. The committee fielded recommendations from several sport committees, either approving the proposals or adjusting them to limit costs, consider student-athletes’ time demands or account for anticipated future growth in a sport.

The Division III Baseball Committee, for instance, asked not only to expand the bracket, but also to amend the championship’s structure. The Championships Committee decided to deny bracket expansion, but endorsed the Baseball Committee’s recommendation that the championship move to a super-regional format in 2018. The format, the committee argued, would create a shorter tournament and would ensure that student-athletes miss less class time.

The Division III Women’s Golf Committee recommended expanding its field from 21 to 23 teams, but the Championships Committee opted to recommend expanding the field to 22 to adhere to its policy of keeping field sizes even. Similarly, the committee rejected a proposal from the Division III Softball Committee to expand its bracket from 62 to 63 teams, opting to wait until the sport’s access ratio requires 64 teams before it will recommend amending the bracket.

“Long-term fiscal responsibility in regards to our championships is always a major factor when deciding on format changes or bracket expansions,” said Gerald Young, Championships Committee chair and athletics director at Carleton College. “Health and safety, equity and missed class time also need to be seriously considered. Striking the proper balance can be very difficult, but I felt very comfortable with the recommendations that the committee agreed upon.”

A list of recommended 2016-17 bracket expansions: 

Sport Bracket change Annual cost
Men’s basketball Bracket increase from 62 to 64 $23,000
Men’s golf Bracket increase from 41 to 42 $8,000
Men’s ice hockey Bracket increase from 11 to 12 $12,000
Men’s lacrosse Bracket increase from 32 to 34 $17,000
Men’s soccer Bracket increase from 61 to 62 $36,750
Men’s volleyball Bracket increase from 10 to 12 $37,000
Women’s golf Bracket increase from 21 to 22 $8,000

Other actions:

  • The Championships Committee reviewed the initial results of a pilot program for charter flights that allowed schools to purchase tickets this fall for athletes, parents or staff who wanted to travel on the charter but would have caused a team to exceed its reimbursable travel party size. The new rule didn’t result in cost overruns for the division’s nine charter flights in the fall and will continue to be evaluated through the spring so that the committee can weigh its viability for the future.
  • The Championships Committee discussed potentially including nonconference strength of schedule in its championships selection criteria. Currently, selection committees do not consider that data point in the selection process. The committee will seek feedback, gather data and continue discussing the potential change in future meetings. 
  • The Championships Committee discussed the host site selection process for championships from 2018 to 2022. The system to accept host bids will be open in June, and the sport committees will begin to weigh options and make recommendations later this year.