DIII Championships Committee addresses regional concerns via selection criteria
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.