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NCAA Division III - Breakout
Access to Championships - Division III Football Playoff Issues
(Monday, June 15, 9:30 - 10:30 a.m.)

Porter Miller:

Welcome to the Division III breakout session. This particular session has to do with football championship issues. That's what we'd like to talk about today. My name is Porter Miller. I'm the director of athletics at Earlham College and a member of the NACDA Executive Committee. My job is to keep us on time, make sure we're out of here at 10:30 a.m. and introduce the panelists. At the conclusion, we are going to pass out a ballot. We ask each of you to fill it out and it gives you four options that we're going to explain today, because we do need to get people's input. We're going to ask you to give your first preference to your first option and then we're going to ask you to give your second preference. That's all we want. So, four options and we want you to give your first preference and your second preference by putting in number one or number two.

We're going to explain to you today what's taken place so far on Division III championship issues. Each of the different speakers will take one of the options and talk about it. We're fortunate to have Bridget Belgiovine here. She is the assistant director for division III and she's been an athletics director and knows what's going on. She is here representing the NCAA. We want to give you as much information as we have, and then along with Bridget and the football committee, to answer as many questions as we can. Remember, we can't answer all of your questions. We want your input and then come up with a championship model, eventually.

We've got Mike Clary on the Championship Committee from Rhodes College; Glen Hedden from Kean College; Joe Bush from Hampden-Sydney and the next chair of the Championship Committee; from Plymouth State College, we have the long-time chair of the Championship Committee, Steve Bamford. Steve will go out of office July 1 and Joe will take over and we'll have some new members on this committee.

We'll start by having Steve come to the microphone and give you some history of what's taken place with the Football Committee and, at the conclusion, we'll have Bridget come up and explain to you the process and exactly what we hope to accomplish with this Championship Committee, with your help. Then Steve will come back up and we'll take all four issues. At the conclusion, we hope to have about a half-hour for questions.

Steve Bamford:

Thank you very much for your attendance here. On behalf of the Division III Football Committee, we appreciate your attendance at this session this morning. Later in the program, as Porter alluded to earlier, we would strongly encourage all of you to share your thoughts and your perspective on the models presented to you this morning and any other postseason proposals which, heretofore, haven't been considered by the committee, but may be worthy of consideration from this point on.

My charge this morning is to provide a brief chronology of the recent history of our committee's work over the last 18 months in trying to create more opportunities for the NCAA football playing institutions to gain access to the NCAA postseason structure. Following the 1997 convention in Nashville, the Championships Committee requested that the Football Committee take a look at proposals that would do just that. Increase access immediately for an additional eight teams from the current 16, increase access in various models and options to be presented later on to the membership for their discussion review and vote sometime later that year.

So, we went to our committee meeting in February 1997. We spent four days, almost exclusively, on developing these models and we came up with seven. Whereupon, we sent those seven models to the Championships Committee for their review and consideration. Later that spring, the Championships committee called out what they thought to be the best three models. If you remember, we surveyed the membership last summer on those three models and they were the 16-team national championship format, along with an eight-team NIT model. That was one of the options. The second model was the 16-team national championship format structure, along with four regional bowl games. One game at the end of the season for the fifth and sixth ranked teams in each of the four regions of the country. The third model that was under consideration at that time was the regional championship in which we would realign the four regions back into three regions and we'd have three separate eight-team regional championship tournaments.

Later, we polled the membership in a survey at which time those survey results were distributed to the membership. Two of the options came out as being clearly the favorites of the three. They were the bowl concept and the NIT concept. We eliminated further consideration of the regional alignment because it did not get much popularity during the survey vote. Last fall, our committee was charged with coming together and making some presentations at the January meeting of the NCAA convention, whereupon, I made a presentation on the NIT concept and my colleague, Ray Smith from Hope College, made a presentation on the bowl concept.

Following that discussion, a great deal of discussion resulted from the floor and the question was put to the committee, why wasn't the 24-team, five-week model discussed and considered throughout the past 12 months? Whereupon, we explained that the Championships Committee, when they gave us the charge to come up with the models in January 1997, told us not to consider the 24-team, five-week format because the presidents would not support it. With that charge, we came up with the three models. We discussed those tow models that were clearly the favorites among the membership at the convention in January. Following the convention, we had our regular annual meeting of the committee in February. We went back to the drawing board and Bridget attended that session with us. Almost exclusively for three days, we tried to develop what might be the model for the postseason format for the future of Division III football.

At the conclusion of those meetings in February of this year, we recommended the bowl concept be implemented immediately for the 1998 and 1999 seasons. We sent that on to the Championships Committee. The Championships Committee reviewed it, considered it and approved it and moved it on to the Management Council for their review and consideration. It was then sent on the Presidents Commission at which time the bowl concept was vetoed. We were then back at square one. Wayne Burrow, assistant director of championships and our liaison in football, called me and said we needed to convene a conference call with the committee to decide on where we were to go from here. At which time, we spent three separate 90-minute sessions in conference calls with the committee over the last six weeks in developing the proposals you have before you today.

We recognize the membership wants immediate access. We recognize the membership wants increased participation form its members schools in the Division III national championship picture. At this point in time, we need your input, we need your feedback, we need your direction and guidance in terms of where do we go from here.

From a different perspective, it is now my pleasure to call upon Bridget to give us a little different perspective from the standpoint of her position as the assistant chief of staff in Division III. She's been to these Management Council meetings. She's been to the Championship Committee meetings and she's also been to the Presidents Commission meetings and I think she can shed some light on where we've been and where we go from here.

Bridget Belgiovine:

Thanks Steve. I don't know if I can shed light about from where we've been and I think it's going to be up to this body to provide the guidance and the light of where it is we will ultimately end up. In that decision-making process and I that dialogue and debate put forward to the presidents who will ultimately have the responsibility to make the decisions, the best thinking and the best recommendations from the largest constituency, which are the member-institutions.

Before I go through a brief recap of that April meeting of the Presidents Council and where it is we need to go from here, there are some members from staff that are here to help with this process in the dialogue as well as several members of the Championships Committee, who is the group that will receive the feedback and recommendations coming from the football committee in the next couple of weeks.

First, Donna Noonan, the assistant director of championships is here. It is really this whole issue that comes under the championships staff. I'm not dumb enough to take this all by myself. I'm dishing it off to some others in the audience. John Biddiscombe, who is the chair of the Management Council, also serves as a member of the Championships Committee. Dan Bridges, who is the chair of the Championships Committee, is here. Gene Marshall is a member of the Management Council and also serves on the Championships Committee. Louise O'Neal, standing in the back, is a member o f the Management Council and also serves as a representative of the Championships Committee. I believe Walter Johnson is here as well, again, a member of the Management Council, serving as a representative to the Championships Committee.

I introduced all of these individuals because part of the charge that came from the presidents was a more concerted effort and a coordinated effort of the membership dialogue and debate to come forward with the best thinking and with what the membership truly wants, so these individuals are sitting here listening to what you will say. We'll then have the charge of looking at the models that come forward from the Football Committee, and ultimately, making recommendations to the Management Council and then up to the Presidents Council.

My goal is to say to you, up front, that this is not a done deal. That's obvious. The floor appears to be open once again for your thinking about what to do with the football championship within the parameters and principles that have been identified by the Management Council and endorsed by the Presidents Council. In April, I'm going to start at what happened at the Presidents Council, because it's their action that puts us here discussing this again.

I will quote from their minutes. "To retain the current football championships for 1998-99 and to bring back more appropriate models to comply with the two primary principles. Principle number one, increased access for institutions into the championship; number two, a stronger emphasis on the in-season conference and regional play. Their reasons for that particular motion were the idea of the bowl games were not a suitable alternative in addressing those principles. There were many of the members of the Presidents Council who were in attendance and did hear the discussion on the convention floor. There was also a letter sent to all institutional CEOs in March requesting their input and feedback regarding the football championships and they had access to some of that information.

The second reason was that while the idea of a 24-team, five-week championship remains viable, it needs a more coordinated effort and debate by the membership. Any discussion regarding that particular model must include some type of legislative trade-off so that the compliance of the two principles is maintained.

The other is that there is a need to focus on the impact of a full season football model. That's specifically the action that came from the Presidents Council. As Steve then said and as was recommended at that point by the chair of the Management Council was, in order for this to be a more coordinated effort, then let's bring all of the bodies that will be engaged in making this decision together now as we start this process of re-thinking what to do. It was at that point there was a conference call with members of the leadership of the Championships Committee, the Management Council and the Football Committee. The process that we ware now moving forward with is taken from those three bodies working together to say, we can and will come forward with some good recommendations to send back to the Management Council and Presidents Council in this next year.

From a process perspective, we are now at the NACDA Convention. You heard from Steve about the conference calls with the Football Committee, with the Championships Committee. This then, is our first large body of dialogue and discussion to get feedback. Then, the Football Committee will identify from this feedback and from feedback they've received from regional chairs, specific actions they're going to recommend to the Championships committee, which meets July 7 through 9. This gathering is important for feedback for the Football Committee.

The Championships Committee will review the recommendations and forward an update to the Management Council and the Presidents Council which meet in late July and early August. I say update because we're not sure, at this point, what the Football Committee will recommend. It may simply be, here's a status of what we've done from January until July and here's what we plan to do from July through December and up to the 1999 convention. The Football Committee will meet again, as they usually do in December during the Division III championships. I believe there is some plan to have an AFCA discussion in January. Whether or not they make recommendations that there be another discussion at the convention is, again wide open. Possible recommendations can be forwarded to the Championships Committee for their February 1999 meeting.

In closing, I would like to note that traditionally, bracket sizes and format for championships have not been the purview of a one-vote per institution; that's part of the executive regulations. I believe that any change to that would not be in the best interest of the division because it opens up a whole lot of different issues. I would encourage us, as a membership, to put forward a couple of different options to present to the presidents that do, in fact, comply with those principles. It may be bringing back, which is what the Football Committee has done and you have in front of you, some models that might not have been fully and effectively debated in the early process. We have a responsibility to put forward to the presidents some type of models that do comply with those principles. I will also tell you that currently the Presidents Council is split, at best, regarding the 24-team, five-week model and some kind of sub-division Model. There were some that also supported the 16-team with the eight-team bowl concept.

It's wide open right now in order to give the Championships Committee and the Football opportunity to put forward rationale and reasons for why they are recommending what they are. That's my candid response. Others here were in attendance at that meeting and they are divided. It is important that what recommendations do come forward, there is the rationale that ties the recommendation to those two principles. Thank you.

Porter Miller:

Now, we're going to go into the models we have. These are four members from the Division III Football Committee. The models they're representing don't necessarily mean that's the model they favor, but they've done their research. They're going to attempt to present the models as best they can with the information they have. At the conclusion of this, we will have a chance for questions and answers. Questions can be asked to anyone who is here. I'm not going to tell you that we have all of the answers because that's not going to happen.

We want very much to get these four models out on the floor. We need your input as far as questions and your input on what is here today. Then, we need you input on a ballot. I know that we don't have enough ballots now, so we would like to have just one vote from one school. If we run out of ballots, we'll have you put it on a piece of paper. We need this information so we can make our recommendations to the Championships Committee.

We'll start out with Steve Bamford and he'll do option one.

Steve Bamford:

This 24-team, five-week national championship that is option #1 will add one week to the current four-week structure. Rather than playing the Stagg Bowl on the second Saturday in December, the Stagg Bowl game for the national championship would be played on the third Saturday in December. This regular season competition window would not change under this model. We would continue with the 11-wekk window, giving every Division III institution an opportunity to play 10 games and one scrimmage, if they so choose.

This model will not require legislation be passed prior to its implementation. IN this model, there would be 24 teams selected in one national championship bracket. IN the first round, six teams would be selected from each of the four regions. The top two teams in each region would draw first-round byes, while the third-ranked team would host the sixth-ranked team and the fourth-ranked team would host the fifth-ranked team. That's the first round of competition.

In this second round, the number one regionally ranked team would host the winner of the four-five game and the number two ranked team in each region would play host to the three-six winner. The third round would decide the regional championship, which is now normally the second round. The fourth round would be the national semifinals, the week prior to the Stagg Bowl, and of course, two teams would emerge to play in the Stagg Bowl for the national championship, which currently is played in Salem, Virginia, in that fifth and final weekend of the playoffs, December 19.

That, in a nutshell, is the option #1 on your proposal sheet. I'll now call upon Joe Bush to provide you with option #2.

Joe Bush:

Option #2 is a version of option #1. It's the same championship format, but basically, option #2 reduces the regular season window from 11 to 10 weeks. The regular season would end one week earlier than we currently do. It would end the first week in November. Now, if you refer to the calendar handout that I've made for option #2, I'll give you a few pluses and minuses for this option.

A plus is that we would have a true national championship. There would be 24 teams, which would give access to an additional eight. The playoffs would end within the present time frame. You could still play 10 games and with a scrimmage. Some of the minuses for option #2 are that you're flexibility in scheduling would be reduced where, if you want to play 10 games, you'd have to play 10 games within 10 weeks. There would be no open date. This puts a burden on some of the larger conferences that depend on an open date for their conference schedule. It would also take time to adjust for future schedules. I'm sure you're like a lot of us, we're scheduled past 2000. You'd have to take into consideration some of your end-of-season rival games.

One thing you have to consider is the additional cost for bringing in the squads a few days earlier. Some of us are playing on September 5 an d you can see on the calendar that if you decided to play on September 5, if you set the opening classes on the 15th, whereas if you play on September 12, you'd bring in your player son the 19th of August. That's roughly four days that you would have to pay for the squad to come back early.

Option #2 would require NCAA legislation.

Mike Clary:

Let me begin by saying that the model I'm presenting is in no way in concrete form and, certainly, your input, feedback, suggestions and criticisms on this model today and in the coming months would be very important in terms of the Football Committee being able to provide a more detailed structure to what is before you.

The sub-division model surfaced at the April meetings. This was brought forward to the Football Committee about five or six weeks ago, so we would hope and expect that there would be a number of questions about both options three and four, which are being presented today. Let me also say that this concept does not split schools or sub-divide schools by state schools or private schools. There's no academic division by virtue of this concept. There's no cost of institution divisions. This is purely a self-select sub-division model.

There would be two national championship tournaments. There is no mandate that the brackets for the tournaments be either eight or 16. It would depend on the number of independent institutions and conferences who self-select for one tournament or the other as to how the brackets would be set up. As teams do self-select, brackets would be determined. It had been suggested that the self-selection process would take place before the football season began and conferences or independent institutions would select one of the two tournaments for a three-year period. Certainly, your feedback on this is welcome.

There are approximately 220 schools which sponsor Division III football. In speaking with Wayne Burrow, there are 24 football-playing conferences and we have identified 12 that have eight or more football playing institutions. This model would also coincide with the automatic qualification principles that are going to be discussed later. Again, independent institutions or conferences would self-select as to which tournament they would want to be in. I want to point out that this concept would meet all of the other championships guidelines where there's going to be a terminal champion. It wouldn't matter if there's an eight-team or 16-team bracket, it would be two national champions and people would be playing for national championships with this model.

This model would require legislation be passed before its implementation.

Glen Hedden:

As Mike said, this information is new and we've only had a few weeks to deal with it ourselves, so we still have a lot of questions. Option four deals with the self-selections. It's similar to the option the Football Committee moved forward with this spring. Having a 16-team bracket with a national tournament and four regional bowl games, but dependent on who self-selects and the number of teams in each region, those regions might change in geographic dimensions and you would have four games across the country in some manner.

The 16-team bracket would continue. The one question that we have as a committee is, how the AQ regulations that will move forward the next several years will affect this concept. If a conference selects the 16-team bracket or if individual schools would be required to select in those situations.

It's similar to the bowl concept where we propose a fifth and sixth team in each region would play in that bowl game. This model, the institution would self-select and it would have an effect on the rankings as we know it today. This would also require legislation.

Porter Miller:

One thing we know, this is confusing. We don't expect it to be clear because we don't completely fully understand it either. We're here today to discuss this and open up the floor to get your feelings and thoughts.

(All questions from the floor were inaudible.)

Is it possible Bridget, that you might be able to share with us the survey done by the Presidents Council with respect tot he five-week option.

Bridget Belgiovine:

First of all, you need to understand that it was a letter from President Curt McCray to all CEOs and it identified from where we had been at the convention to that point in time. It did not require a response of CEOs; it simply requested that CEOs respond to that particular letter. The concern that was raised from the presidents themselves, as well as the Management council was that, I believe there were 44 responses received. Now, we've got 220 plus football playing institutions, 44 responses out of that number is not very high.

Of that 44 that were returned, 75 percent favored the 24-team, five-week option and they state that. The concern that was raised by the Presidents Council members and, a valid one from their point of view is that we didn't require a response and the responses were from those who favored the 24-team. We have not heard from the parts of the membership, at least in writing, that are telling us, please look at some kind of sub-division model, or some other model other than the 24-team.

We had 44 responses. Most of those were favorable to the 24-team, five-week, but that's not a very significant response from the presidents in Division III. Where are those who want something else?