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NCAA Division II Breakout
Championships, Brackets & Selections
(Tuesday, June 11, 10:45 - 11:45 a.m.)

Ron Prettyman:

We have a great panel here today. Our first presenter this morning is Jerry Hughes from Central Missouri State. Our second presenter is Noel Olson from the North Central Athletic Conference. Our third presenter this morning is Doug Echols from the South Atlantic Conference. He is the president of the NCAA Division III Commissioners Association. Lastly, presenting today is Lynn Dorn, the director of women's athletics from North Dakota State University.

Let's start with Jerry.

Jerry Hughes:

Thanks Ron. We have divided out different areas in regard to championships that we're going to discuss. If any of you have any questions when we've finished, we'd be happy to answer them. I've been on the Executive Committee for six years. My term just ended this past January. I chaired the Championships Committee five of those years, so I have a decent sense of where we've been and how we got there. As we all know from the survey we did about three years ago, championship was the number one issue in regards to the membership, especially with Division II.

I'm going to talk about seeding, brackets and expansion. With seeding, as you know, we moved to the regionalization concept. All of our bracket sizes are developed by regions. The Regional Committee selects teams by region and they seed teams by region. There was, for a period of time, up until just a couple of years ago, some sports committees that continued to seed nationally. They seeded teams into a whole bracket nationally by regions, therefore, they would move the various regions around.

The Championships Committee didn't agree with that perspective. We felt that seeding regionally is fine, but nationally, you need to have a preset rotation. For example, the West versus the East, the North Central versus South Central, etc., moving through a number of years on down the road. It might be that once you get to national competition, the top two teams meet in the first round of whatever that is, whether it's the Elite Eight, or the Baseball World Series, or whatever that championship might be. We didn't feel the sports committees had the ability in Division II to seed nationally because we don't compete nationally as Division I teams do. We don't have any comparisons across the country to say a team from the Midwest is better than a team from California. We've encouraged all of the sports committees. All of them are on track now to set the national competition seeding wise, bracket wise, with regions. We felt this was something we needed to do.

Currently, we have brackets, starting with eight. We have a 12 bracket, a 16 bracket, a 24 bracket, a 28 bracket, a 32-team bracket and we have a 48-team bracket. One of the last things we discussed was trying to get those bracket sizes even. Now, they're all even numbers, but by even, saying we would bring even teams into a site. For example, in baseball and softball, right now, those bracket sizes are 24 teams. We have eight regions. So, we're bringing three teams to a regional site.

I would like to see all of our brackets down to eight, 16, 32, 48 and possibly, 64. From that standpoint, when we bring them in for a baseball or softball game, for example, you would be bringing four teams to a regional site as opposed to three. That way, you don't get into some of the things that you get into with the bracket sizes. That's a move with Division II that would be very positive. It's something that we're going to be able to do with our dollars. As was mentioned earlier, starting in 1997, we have a little over $2 million excess money than what we've had before. In the past, in Division II, when the Championships Committee would develop an issue, decide on something that we thought was good for Division II, it would be my task and one other person's task to go back in front of the Executive Committee. This was comprised of two Division II members, two Division III members and 10 Division I members. Obviously, not saying anything about Division I, but quite often, they thought we were spending their money and it was very difficult to get brackets expanded. It's very difficult to get some things we thought needed to be done for Division II.

That's why I think Ced said some of the things this morning, Division II came out very well. Voluntarily, we came out very well. We have a chance, during the whole structure, to form a new identity. As we all know, we have passed things just because Division I did. We have some rules that maybe we don't need in Division II. We also have some things in championships that we don't need in Division II, but we got them forced on us because of the way the structure was at the time.

Now, we will have the opportunity to do some things that I think are good for Division II. I also think we will have the opportunity to do it because we have the dollars and we don't have to fall and bloody our knees before the Executive Committee to get some things done. On the bracket size issue, it would be tremendous for many of our sports. Those that are falling in that category - soccer is at 12, both baseballs are at 24, volleyball is at 28 - some of those need to go up to 16 or 32, which would bring even numbers to size.

There are some sports that we need to look at expansion of the brackets. If we do what I just mentioned on increasing the bracket sizes, it would take care of a lot of them for a number of years. Soccer on both the men's and women's side, with the increasing sponsorship in soccer, both need to be looked at very carefully by the Championships Transition Team and need to be increased. Obviously, baseball, volleyball and softball will just increase by the nature of the bracket.

This is Jerry Hughes talking and not anybody else. From my years of being on the Championships Committee, these are things that I see that I think need to be corrected. I've heard from some of you on some of this as concerns and a lot of them have been my concerns over the years. Now, we have the vehicle to change some of those things and we need to be very aggressive to make these changes.

That's all I have on my three topics right now. I'll be happy to answer any questions for you when we finish. We now go to Noel.

Noel Olson:

My topics are regionalization and automatic qualification. I want to give you a little introduction as to how I arrived at the thoughts that I have on these two very important topics. A number of years ago, when I was first the commissioner of the North Central Conference, two of our schools played for the national championship, North Dakota State and the University of South Dakota. That brought on a lot of furor among the membership because they didn't think it was a very good idea. That is one of the things that started us moving in that direction. Shortly after that, as you probably know, our conference was very strong in women's basketball. We narrowly escaped, and I say escaped, because it would have been good for us, but maybe not for the rest of the nation, a situation where North Dakota and North Dakota State almost played in the finals, two neighboring schools.

I thought, at that point, as I was early on in my position on the men's basketball committee and also on the Championships Committee with Jerry, I'd have to take off my North Central Conference hat when it came to looking at matters of championships and access and other areas that would effect the access. I did take off my hat, somewhat to the dismay of my colleagues in the North Central Conference, because they wondered whether I was doing my job for them or not. We came up with the concept of regionalization. Regionalization to me, has been a very satisfactory thing. If I'm not mistaken, it has proven to be very popular. I believe it had overwhelming support. It must have been the right direction to move.

Let me tell you some of the other reasons I felt we should move that way. On the Men's National Basketball Committee, we used to have a great amount of concern about access. You were pretty good until you got down to 29, 30, 31 and 32. It was hell to pay, I mean really difficult because people all thought they belonged in there and really didn't have any rational reason. We were pretty good until we got to that number. Boy, did we get a lot of phone calls to our national office when we presented to the whole nation on television or radio, what the results were. I can remember stammering to myself and on television as to what I thought the reason was for selecting 29, 30, 31 or 32. So, we didn't have a basis because nobody had played each other. I don't have to sell that according to what I see on the questionnaire, but it's important that you understand that when I supported, personally, the regionalization concept, I supported it because I felt we would play regionally.

I found a few barriers along the way, one of which is the widespread western area where it's difficult to participate against each other. Our North Central region and the new South Central region in men's basketball was an awesome type of region in terms of size. So, it wasn't as easy to do as you'd like to do. The answer to that is continually looking at realigning regions so that we are constantly aware that we want to have commonality in the kinds of opponents and a chance to participate. I don't have to tell you there's a heavy tip of Division II towards the East. As you move toward our western areas, there's a lot of space, but it's pretty sparse in terms of the numbers. It isn't an easy task. I don't envy the two basketball committees having to come up this summer with an answer to some of the suggestions given them for realignment.

Having said all of that, in my personal opinion, when I supported regionalization, I then said to myself, once you get into the regions, then it's a whole other story. Now, we should be able to rank the best teams and we don't need to have automatic qualification. First of all, you are playing against each other and you should know each other better and we should be able to vote as a committee and establish a solid representation. Is that perfect? No. It isn't perfect. It doesn't work because we're human beings. That's one of the things that our transition team is going to work on a lot. We want our committees to be unbiased. My experience is that the longer you're on a committee like that, the more you realize how important it is to be unbiased. I've watched people change from the first day they come on a national basketball committee, for example, until the time they leave.

Hopefully, in time, there will be another result of regionalization. Not only will we be able to better tell who the teams are that deserve to be in the national competition, but hopefully, it will cause areas that are not so strong to improve. I know in my own conference, the ones that have the hardest time accepting regionalization were the women. We were so strong in women's sports we thought we should have more teams in. I made a comment to them and I haven't proven it yet, but I do see a slight glimmer at the end of the tunnel that areas that were not strong in, let's say, women's basketball or volleyball, are now starting to show a little improvement. Hopefully, it will carry on. That should be one of the results of regionalization, in my opinion.

Let me finish up by talking a little bit about automatic qualification. I use a term once in a while called automatic access. I say this kindly to my friends that I call automatic access to the NAIA mentality. In other words, everybody got in. In the old days, in the NAIA, everybody played and everybody gets in. It was just like a high school tournament. But, we don't have that in Division II. We do have quality in our selections, supposedly. By having quality, we would then call it automatic qualification.

When I finally realized and I think our Championships Committee finally realized, it was impossible to determine who was qualified for absolute surety as a conference. We've studied it very carefully and we've looked down the line and most sports hardly had anybody who was automatically qualified. Actually, there was only one way you could become that. I suppose you could develop your qualifications over a period of time. My theory now is that it isn't necessary. We aren't leaving the championship teams at home. What we need to do is spend as much money as we possibly can from the surpluses on championships so that we have bigger brackets and, thereby, making the task even easier, in my opinion. We'll definitely not leave anybody home that is deserving of that.

I have not seen a good system yet to determine automatic qualification. The point systems, the power ratings, they just don't work. We don't have a computer that will figure out an RBI from an RBI exactly. We just don't have enough competition. Why do we still have it in basketball? That's the one area where we still have it. I supported it in basketball for now. The reason I did, and I don't call it automatic qualification, I call it automatic access because last year every men's basketball team had automatic qualification. That, in itself, is evidence that we aren't using automatic qualification. It would be hard for me to believe that every conference would fit that category.

The women's side had one conference that didn't have the automatic qualification. I accepted it there for one reason only. At this time, we're using men's basketball as the source for half of the enhancement funds. I felt it would be wrong not to have every conference have a chance to prove themselves in that kind of competition. Of course, on the women's side, even though it's not being used, and you can rest assured that in my conference, I would love to have it used, because we felt that if it's going to be fair for men, it should be fair for women. There, I would call that automatic access. For now, that's okay. If we change our system, which I suspect we will within the next two or three years then, that won't be necessary either.

Thank you.

Doug Echols:

Thanks Noel. I've been asked to give a positive position with regards to automatic qualification. My good friend, Noel Olson, and I have had a lot of fun talking about sharing this information with you. As Ron said when he introduced me, I have been serving the past two years as president of the Division II Commissioners Association. Naturally, the perspective of commissioners will be to support whatever might by positive for conferences. We've had a lot of discussion over this period of time in regards to automatic qualification and the access of teams to NCAA postseason play. In all of these instances, with conferences and commissioners and conferences that have postseason tournaments and some that don't, etc., there's been a support across the board for maintaining automatic qualification opportunities for conferences.

At no time, was there ever discussion that it should be simply automatic access. Conferences ought to have to justify and prove the quality of their competitiveness within their need and meet other criteria before they could be accepted into the automatic qualification category. It was the Dean Witter approach. You had to earn it in order to be able to receive that kind of opportunity.

The NCAA has always held to a position that access to postseason play is for the elite teams. I don't believe that a position in relationship to the elite conferences is really contrary to that thinking. The best teams should play for the national championship. If there are conferences which can distinguish themselves through certain criteria and have an opportunity for automatic qualification, then they should have an opportunity to have access to the championships because of them.

The regionalism concept has worked extremely well. We see more and more the savings which occur because of competition from an intra regional standpoint. That saves a great deal of money on traveling great distances in order to try to prove your national capabilities, if you will.

The automatic qualification opportunity for conferences provides other opportunities for student-athletes. I'm afraid that if we eliminate some of these automatic opportunities, we may eliminate postseason conference play in some cases. Some conferences may choose simply not to have, and some do now, postseason tournaments. But, where there are conferences where postseason tournaments make a lot of sense, we might find ourselves eliminating salutary opportunities as well as opportunities for awards and recognition for student-athletes and also lessen the importance of playing for a conference tournament championship.

I don't believe that the expanded access we may see, either through the use of the revenues that are going to be coming to Division II, or through another model where you would have greater playing opportunities within institutions covering the expenses, would diminish the opportunities if, in fact, you continue the automatic qualification.

Again, I would say, it ought to be for the elite conferences and for the elite teams. It should be for those schools and those conferences and how they gain access if really not a factor in relationship to bracket size. The problem with selection for championship play is not in the top teams. It's in the bottom of the bracket teams. Whether you expand brackets to try to solve that problem, or whether you eliminate automatic qualification, or you continue automatic qualification, is not going to effect where the real rub is in regard to championship participation. The rub is in the bottom part of the bracket selection, not in the top part.

I'll be happy to answer any questions, but I do think there is good reason to continue the thinking for automatic qualification opportunity for conferences. Thank you.

Lynn Dorn:

I've been asked to talk a little bit about the championship opportunities under the new, restructured model. Bob Becker had an opportunity earlier to talk about where we are in terms of the timing. As he suggested, there isn't an immediate priority in terms of legislation for championships to review. So, as a result, we're going to try, as project teams, to delay that particular discussion until fall. I don't want to mislead you and tell you that the current Championships Committees is not actively and pro-actively moving forward. Nor, do I want to mislead you and tell you we don't hear your concerns. We're very appreciative and sensitive to all the issues of criteria, selection, automatic qualification, regionalization.

I would like to share with you a little bit about part of the deliberate behavior we're continuing to do during the next 18 months of this period of transition. The championship opportunities in Division II right now are very solid, but there are a couple of areas of concern. One in particular, is that only 64 percent of the Division II members are involved in postseason opportunities. That Division II percentage of 64 is lower than the Division I or Division III percentage of opportunities. The reason may be as simple as the size of the bracket. It may have to do with geographic location of sport opportunities. For example, soccer is just becoming very strong in the Midwest for women right now, compared to the dominance it's had in the East and in the West. There may be a lot of variables influencing that, but again, it's that type of information we want to begin to evaluate and to see and to serve on behave of the membership, those needs for you. Pro-actively, the current Championship Committee has asked all of the sport liaisons to assist us and to try to determine some of the cause and fact of some of the areas of concern.

I will give to you briefly, five or six areas we've asked for assistance in. The first one is to be certain that there is going to be an integration between the current Championships Committee and the Projects Team. We know this is a prioritized area for the championship and so the current model, although it is functioning as if it was new, wants to be certain we're including the existing members of the Championships Committee.

The second piece is we're going to try to evaluate the criteria for selection. We've heard very clearly from the membership that there is concern, and to the best of our abilities possible, to begin to have consistent selection criteria as outlined in the various Championship handbooks. We understand it's sports specific, but we're looking for equitable treatment among sports and among men and women, and if possible, between the individual sports.

We're going to continue to evaluate the realignment of regions as they relate to the numbers of institutions, sport specifically. We know with new emerging opportunities for women, there's a potential for new membership within Division II. We want to come up with some balance of a regional alignment. That's a task we should be responsible to continue to do.

We want to attempt to inform each sport committee chair during an onsite orientation at the national office of their duties and responsibilities. We believe we need to continue to assist and to educate the chairs of each sport committee at Division II of their responsibilities. We want to solidify the relationship with the sport liaison at the national headquarters with that chair so they have an opportunity to be a representative to the best of their abilities possible. Perhaps a handbook just for chairs might be a medium we might assist them with.

In line with that, we want to try to take and develop some sort of evaluative tool of their members at the regional level to assess their involvement. Many of us have served on sports committees. Some of us have been very comfortable in our role representing our conference, perhaps representing our areas. We take very seriously, the impact of our behaviors and our decisions because they clearly reflect the outcome for the student-athlete. Is there some assessment tool? Was your committee member prepared? Was your committee member knowledgeable? Was your committee member comfortable with the amount of time it took to be on a weekly conference call? Are they getting the voice of the membership across on behalf of their regional area? We're trying to formalize, if you will, that structure which we hope will have a positive byproduct for the selection process.

We're going to try to develop and to determine the potential relationship between the NCAA Sport Committees and the Coaches Association to see if we can't, somehow again, solidify the relationship, for example, between the two different coaches associations for the sport of men's basketball and women's basketball. Might we have a liaison defined specifically to work with the NCAA Sport Committee? As we know, there is a minimum requirement for the number of administrators serving on Championships Committees at the NCAA. Perhaps that chair is an administrator and not a coach, so maybe the positive way to integrate, under the new structure, coaches' involvement, would be to have the coaches association have a direct link to the chair of the sports committee. Again, enhancing access and opportunities from the various members, in this case, coaches.

We're going to try to continue to determine access and opportunities through the membership through the philosophy of regionalization. Noel alluded to that earlier. We can talk about the survey results, but 78 percent of the Division II membership formally validated positively, their reaction to regionalization. Seventy-eight percent of the membership favored regionalization.

Bracket expansion, without question, we need to talk about some sort of a parity in terms of opportunities under the regionalization concept to make certain you have an equal number coming forward. That task in ongoing, as well.

We certainly want to continue to monitor the financial implications of the bracket expansion. The championships area is an area is very visible to the membership. There is media exposure. There is great recruiting opportunities if you have access to championships. But, I really believe that, as an organization, we want to be very prudent with our dollars. Excess money, as you know with your own university budgets, becomes pretty limited over a period of time. I want to be very cautious in telling you that I really believe in sport opportunities and championships opportunities, but unlike my good friend, Noel, I wouldn't put as much enthusiasm towards the immediate prioritization of championships opportunities right now for the membership. Again, be very deliberate in moving forward.

We want to talk about, very futuristically, the retention of championships for the endangered sports. What might we want to do with that legislatively? Might we want to change the numbers of institutions? There are some endangered sports, as we know, in Division II that may not be able to continue after the 1997-98 sport moratorium is lifted. What might we want to do in terms of balancing opportunities for new emerging sports for women? There is, again, a criteria of numbers of institutions that should sponsor it. Might we want, philosophically, Division II to come up with a new scheme or a new model?

Another area we are looking at is the impact of provisional members upon championships opportunities. What might that do in terms of geographic representation in terms of bracket expansion? We've talked about trying to assure regionalized representation for each sport committee if that region does offer that sport. Right now, in women's soccer, there are six opportunities to move forward out of a region, but there are only four members that served on a sport committee. So, those two regions are not having direct access to support their regional involvement, as the sports committee is four, but the opportunities are six.

That's just a basic overview of some of the immediate impacting decisions I still think we must move forward with. Status quo is comfortable, but again, that is not necessarily what is happening at the championships level at this current time.

I'd like to share with you the results of the memberships survey. There were about three or four basic questions in terms of initiatives we asked you to respond to. The first was establishing Division II subdivisions in the sport of football. Forty-seven percent of the institutions supported that initiative, while 35.9 percent opposed that particular initiative. The other one was establishing Division II subdivisions for all team sports. Twenty-two percent supported it, while overwhelmingly, 57 percent opposed that particular initiative. Another one that we talked about earlier was regionalization. Seventy-eight percent of the membership supported the regionalization concept.

We then tried to somehow rank, in order of priority, the importance your institution would place on the features of NCAA championships. Very clearly, access and the opportunities to qualify and participate came out as the number one priority in terms of the feature of the championships. Then, grouped together, were the remaining three which included, quality of the championships event, caliber of the competition and cost containment. Again, I suspect that Mike and Nancy have a lot of individual comments that were given to us on your behalf that we're going to try to formalize and get back to you through the conference structure.

That is the activity at hand by the current Division II Championships Committee and some of the activities we look forward to with your input and inclusion for the upcoming transition.

Thank you.

Ron Prettyman:

Thank you to the panelists.

From the Floor:

I'm concerned about particular sports championships such as hockey and skiing. What is the potential of change in the structure of those particular sports in Division II? Are we going to maintain access to national championships as they are presently, or will we have a Division II championship?

Jerry Hughes:

Obviously, skiing is a National Collegiate. Right now, the thinking is that we will remain the access on the National Collegiate championships the way it's presently structured. Unless, obviously, during this review, the transition team and the membership decide that sponsoring, as Lynn was talking about, changing sponsorship numbers to start a championship, that might happen. The plan, as we move through it, was that the National Collegiate would stay as they were.

From the Floor:

Is the reason for staying the same because of the limited numbers in Division II?

Jerry Hughes:


From the Floor:

How does that affect hockey?

Jerry Hughes:

Hockey is one of those, as Lynn also indicated, has the moratorium through 1998. They will discuss, not only expanding it, but will they continue it past 1998. That's the whole gambit they're going to look at with those sports in that category.

From the Floor:

That would be a terrible change to have it eliminated from the national championships. That's one of the objectives of any of our programs to attain national recognition. To eliminate a championship such as that, would be terrible.

Jerry Hughes:

We have several we have to look at. There's no question, because the sponsorship levels are so low. I can't say that any sports will go away. They'll look at the whole realm of things.

From the Panel:

I have great sympathy for what Ed is saying since we are in a great hockey area. I don't have an answer to it, because how many are left? Seven or eight? It's going down. Many of them are going into Division I because they fear something is going to happen to the Division II tournament. The good side of it is that it doesn't lose money on the current format. With one game, they draw very well and actually make money. It would take a long time to get the Championships Committee to justify four for hockey and not say 32 for volleyball or softball. It isn't an easy answer. There are three sports in that category, field hockey and men's lacrosse. I relate to hockey because that's what I have. I wish you could come up with an answer to tell us how to do it. Yes, it is important to have a tournament for every sport, but at what point is a team number so small that it is almost an embarrassment? Questions from the Floor were Inaudible

Ron Prettyman:

As the moderator of this panel, I would like to thank the panelists with us. Thank you for coming to this session. Enjoy the Convention.