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NCAA Division III - Breakout
Access to Championships -- Automatic Qualification: The Good, the Bad and the Future
(Monday, June 15, 10:30 - 11:30 a.m.)



Tim Gleason:

I'd like to welcome all of you to the next session, "Automatic Qualification, the Good, the Bad and the Future." My name is Tim Gleason, commissioner of the Ohio Athletic Conference. First off, I need to make a disclaimer on the title. It is probably more clever than it is appropriate. It is not assumed, nor implied that the future is ugly, and there's not anything necessarily bad about things. It's just a way for us to get a handle on looking at this issue from all different angles. We seem to be approaching the cross roads of the automatic qualification issue, and at this point, it is very critical for us to make sure we look at it from every possible perspective and look at approaching it from every different angle we can.

To that end, we have three panelists here that I believe will give you different perspectives in different angles. We have the chair of the NCAA Championships Committee from Division III. We have a Division III president who will give you a perspective from the CEO angle and we also have an AD/coach in the grass roots that will give us some ideas about what's out there on the streets. We do have a diverse group of panelists for you to cover all of the bases. In addition, I would like to introduce the NCAA staff members we have here, Donna Noonan, who is the director of championships and Bridget Belgiovine, who is the assistant chief of staff for Division III. Those two will not be speaking to you directly, but they will be here afterwards for questions and answers.

We also have those two to thank for the packet you have received. I'd like to go over this with you. I will ask our panelists at anytime to feel free to refer to any of the documents in this packet. I hope you all have the packet. It begins with the salmon sheet, supplement #1, Division III Championships Committee. By the way, this entire handout is an extension and an enhancement of what was sent on May 18 from the NCAA to everybody.

Continuing on the handouts, supplement #2, Division III Strategic Planning Priorities. These are seven priorities that have been identified by the Management Council and the Presidents Council. We also have a nominating process for Division III. It's all of the committees, what the process is and what the timing is. It's a horizontal sheet in your handout.

Next is the blue sheet, Automatic Qualification Conference Scheduling Requirements. This is a by sport document. The left hand column represents conference membership sponsoring the sport. It also talks about 30 percent, 40 percent and 50 percent. What is on the table right now is the 40 percent version.

The yellow handout is the Division III National Championships Selection Principles. It is draft number three. The guiding principles for us to follow, the blueprint, so to speak. Take note that the bold and underlined parts are the latest versions of things that came out to the membership in March.

The pink sheet is the Estimated Championship. This identifies what the numbers would look like in each sport. That is supplement #5. Number six is the Championships Principles Timeline. We are, of course, right in the middle of that timeline. The ivory section, number seven, the Division III Championships Selection Process. This shows us the current selection process by sport for the 18 sports in question. Finally, the white sheet is a sample bracket of what the 1998 men and women's basketball tournaments were like.

Those are the handouts. You've got quite a bit of material to go through, not now, but when you get back to campus. They will be very helpful for you. Again, I will ask the panelists to refer to any parts of the handout and afterwards, if you have any questions, we have Donna and Bridget here that can guide us through those.

Let's begin by introducing Dan Bridges as our first panelist. Dan just completed his ninth year as AD at Cal Tech. He resigned as of July l, but he's not leaving Division III. He's not even leaving his conference. Instead of turning left out of his driveway, he'll turn right and be the athletics director at Pomona-Pitzer Colleges. Dan has Ph.D. in athletics administration from Southern Cal. He served on the NCAA Executive Committee, Restructuring and Oversight Committee. He is currently the chair of the Division III Championships Committee and a member of the Division III Budget Committee. It is certainly appropriate that we have him here with us. He will kick things off.

Dan Bridges:

Thank you Tim. I'll assume you've all read the current AQ proposal, so I won't waste valuable discussion time explaining the fine details. I would, however, like to spend a few minutes discussing the philosophical considerations driving this initiative. Then, identify a couple of unresolved issues we'd like your input on prior to the Championships Committee meeting early next month.

If you remember, a revised Division III philosophy statement was thoroughly reviewed and overwhelmingly adopted by this membership just four years ago. A basic tint of that philosophy is that Division III institutions place primary emphasis on regional in-season competition and conference championships. In the months leading up to and immediately following the adoption of that statement, several Division III members expressed concern that though they fully supported this local and in-season emphasis, our current method of championships tournament field selection in team sports didn't seem to reward and/or encourage it. It was pointed out that in most of our team sports, automatic is either non-existent or, at the very least, difficult qualification to come by. This leaves the vast majority of championship field selections up to a small and powerful sports committee who base their selections on factors such as strength of schedule, results against common opponents, results against teams already selected, results against nationally ranked teams, etc. What this means, is that if a team wishes to be seriously considered for postseason selection, it very well may have to travel out of region to bolster it's overall strength of schedule and demonstrate a record of success against traditionally strong opponents. This seems to be particularly true for teams from conferences and/or regions that the sports committee generally considers to be traditionally weak.

After reviewing and discussing this perceived inconsistency, the Division III Management and Presidents Councils agreed we should make every effort to develop a new model for championship field selection and team sports that would do the following -- number one, reflect our stated emphasis of regional in-season competition and conference championships. Number two, reward all qualifying conference champions with automatic bids. Number three, assure equitable postseason participation opportunities for independents and members of non-qualifying conferences.

The task of developing such a structure was given to the Championships Committee, which has been working on this plan for more than a year. At this point, the Championships Committee believes it is very close to submitting a final proposal that accurately reflects the intentions of the Management and Presidents Councils. There are some very important, unresolved issues, however, so, please don't assume that anything you've seen today constitutes our final recommendations. In fact, some of the information you have in front of you wasn't available to the Championships

Committee the last time it met and recommended the eight-team and 40 percent minimum scheduling requirements.

My personal feeling is that when the committee meets again in mid-July, it will feel differently about these requirements after having had the chance to review this data. For example, I would like to refer to supplement #5, the pink copy. This chart details the effects of the six-, seven- and eight-team minimum requirements on the various selection pools for each sport in question. Looking at the top row, baseball for example, you can see that a six-team minimum yields 29 automatic qualifiers, five births for independents and members of non-qualifying conferences and six births for at-large selections for all second and third place teams in pool A. As you review the ways in which the pool sizes vary, based upon the six, seven and eight-team minimums, you'll notice that pool C remains relatively stable in most sports. The only thing that really changes is the teams move back and forth between pools A and B, depending upon which minimum you consider. This is very interesting because the primary reason the Championships Committee recommended the eight-team minimum is because it assumed that giving fewer automatics in column A would result in a significantly larger pool C. However, giving our commitment to providing equitable participation opportunities to all institutions in pool B, the size of pool C remains virtually identical, regardless of where one sets the minimum team standard.

This data leads me to personally lean toward the six- or seven-team models for the following reasons. Number one, they are more inclusive. More teams will receive automatic qualification, meaning fewer subjective selections. Number two, rewarding a larger number of conference champions. Automatic qualification allows for a larger number of institutions to focus on winning their conference, rather than on strategic scheduling and traveling distances to meet other criteria. Number three, the more inclusive six- or seven-team minimum does not significantly disadvantage teams in pools B and C in most sports. In fact, those institutions remaining in pool B may see a real advantage in having fewer non-qualifying conference members in their pool.

I'd like to now direct your attention to supplement #3. It's the blue one having to do with minimum scheduling requirements. As Tim pointed out, this demonstrates the effects of 30, 40 and 50 percent minimum scheduling requirements for six-, seven-, eight-, 10- and 12-team conferences. When the Championships Committee last met, it felt there should be a minimum standard established. At the time, 40 percent seemed like a reasonable starting point. After reviewing this data and considering membership input on this issue, my guess is that the Championships Committee will either recommend minimum scheduling requirements on a sport-by-sport basis, or eliminate the requirement altogether and let conferences decide on their own what their scheduling policy should be.

Before yielding to President Caine, I wish to point out that this proposal will require a vote of the membership before it becomes policy. I also wish to briefly address one concern I've heard, mostly from members of sports committees, that this proposed model for tournament selection would significantly weaken the national championship tournament by awarding births to weak conference championships instead of second, third, and possibly, fourth place teams from stronger conferences. I must admit that may be true to a very limited extent, but certainly, not to the extent some would suggest. Allowing a few of the weaker conference champions into the playoff pool should in no way diminish the importance or the excitement of the national championship tournament. The better teams will still advance to later rounds and the team that wins the national championship will still have to beat the best in Division III to get there.

I look forward to hearing your comments and answering any questions you may have after Stan and Jim make their presentations. Thank you.

Tim Gleason:

Thank you Dan. Next up is Stan Caine. Stan is the president of Adrian College. He has been in that position since 1989. He is the vice chair of the NCAA Division III Management Council and truly a leader in our association and our division. He serves on the boards of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. It's a privilege for us in Division III to have, not only his expertise, but also all of his energy. Stan Caine.

Stan Caine:

Thank you. I want to begin with a disclaimer here. In my capacity as the Vice Chair of the Management Council, I attend both Management Council and Presidents Council meetings and both of those leadership groups include men and women with a very broad range of opinions. Also, as Dan has indicated, the issue of automatic qualification is something that is sort of at mid-stream. Both the Management Council and the Presidents Council talked about these issues a little bit, but the discussion is not yet over. This is all by way of saying that I speak for myself and not for either of those Councils as I talk with you today. I want to talk primarily philosophically and only for a couple of minutes. Much of what I'm going to say will reiterate some of the things that Dan has said.

As you know, we are presently dealing with the aftermath of the restructuring of the NCAA. As a member of the old NCAA Council during it's last two years, I witnessed and participated in discussions concerning restructuring. I'll have to say I regard it as a mixed blessing in a certain way. I worry, in particular, about maintaining what I call the ties that bind, that we maintain a sense that we are all part of one association. On the other hand, I generally favored and favor the new structure because it provides for Division III, a greater opportunity to formulate and put in place it's own distinctive approach to intercollegiate athletics. It also provides us with some additional funds to implement new initiatives.

The Management and the President Councils have taken quite seriously the task of creating a clear sense of vision, mission and philosophy for the division as it's being restructured. I'm presently chairing the Strategic Planning Sub-Committee of the Management Council and that committee is seeking to build and maintain a plan and a process that will focus the work of all of the committees. I urge, in particular, if you want to know the direction in which the leadership is moving in Division III, to take a look at the mission statement and the various statements that support the mission of Division III because that is the best road map and the road map which we are using. The Championships Committee, in developing the automatic qualifications legislation, is responding to that mandate and specifically to that mission statement.

It has drawn upon two guiding principles. The most important of them being one that was already mentioned. That statement which says in organizing Division III athletics, primary emphasis should be placed on regular in-season conference and regional competition. If there's anything that I see among both leadership groups about which there's general agreement, it is on this principle. There is very strong support for the philosophy that stresses broad involvement by many students in athletics with emphasis on the regular season competition in conferences and in regions.

There's another element in the mission statement that comes into play here, of course, because later in the mission statement, we find Division III institutions and conferences support student-athletes in their efforts to reach high levels of athletics achievement which may include opportunities for participation in national championships. This statement represents an endorsement of national championships as an appropriate part of a program of intercollegiate athletics if they are conducted in such a way that they conform to the other elements of the division's mission and philosophy. Clearly, this principle articulates the position that championships are important, but they're not the primary element that motivates competition in Division III.

The delegate charge which was given to the Championships Committee has been to create an equitable structure of access to NCAA championships for conference members and independent institutions which will be consistent with all of our other efforts to maintain the distinctive quality of Division III. The committee is doing an excellent job in seeking to carry out that charge.

We all recognize that the difficulty is in the details. I want you to know we understand that. We all understand that implementation is not easy. Neither the Management Council, nor the Presidents Council has yet endorsed any particular plan, but members have expressed a general approval of the idea of expanding automatic qualifications, and again, the members are quite appreciative of the Championships Committee's efforts to try to build a structure around this effort to expand automatic qualifications.

In the discussions that have occurred at the Management and Presidents Councils' level, there has been a strong respect expressed for the configurations of present conferences and legitimate interests of our independent members. I see a strong urge not to disrupt the whole conference structure as we go forward with this new plan. I'm sure those issues will remain in the minds of the members of the two governing boards.

The members of the Councils have expressed concerns that we have championships that yield winners that are, indeed, the best in the division. The models we have seen so far, from my point of view, are sensitive to that concern. We understand that the composition of the entire field may change somewhat, but it is at least evident to me that the integrity of the championships, in terms of producing a deserving winner, will not be lost.

A last point being something you know already. This proposal is going to be taken to the convention next January. That is a decision that has been made by the Management and the Presidents Councils, both of them, because they have a strong desire to serve the membership, to build consensus, to be sure that as we move forward in this important matter, we are doing what the members would really like us to do.

I'll close by saying, again, I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to the Championships Committee for it's careful work. I look forward to hearing your comments and your input into this very important venture. Thank you.

Tim Gleason:

Thank you Dr. Caine. Jim Nelson is the athletics director and men's varsity basketball coach at Suffolk University. Jim has been there since 1966. He has been the full-time athletics director since 1978. He has served on numerous ECAC committees, including the Division III Men's Basketball Tournament Committee. Currently, Jim is the chair of the NCAA National Division III Men's Basketball Committee. To give us a perspective from that viewpoint, here is Jim Nelson.

Jim Nelson:

Thank you Tim. I don't want you to think for a moment that the selection of my apparel means I disagree with my two other colleagues. I oftentimes have been on the other side of the microphone when discussions relative to automatic qualification are taking place. I hold a somewhat contradictory circumstance in that, in the year 1999-2000, Suffolk University's men and women's basketball program will be in a conference that would directly benefit from the automatic qualification. I also sit as a sport chair listening to my colleagues from the numerous phone calls I receive throughout the country from individuals who don't feel that automatic qualification is necessarily the best avenue for us in terms of conducting our championships.

The term that captured my attention when debating the merits of automatic qualification was that of socialism. All ought to be created equal, no matter their contribution. I'm not so sure that's Webster's definition, but the point is advanced. We are, indeed, a forgiving and a charitable society, much to our credit. One of the main characteristics which has allowed us to be that forgiving and charitable is the success of competition, that is, excellence in competition.

Division III athletes, although with pleasing exceptions and surprises, are normally not as skilled as their counterparts in Division I and Division II. Nonetheless, they are as competitive and committed to the higher standards that we, ourselves, espouse as administrators. It is oftentimes a painful decision for us when we are in a student services meeting or a university departmental meeting when we are asked to cast our vote for less than we rightly know are allowable standards and accept mediocrity as our standard bearer. What do we say to our student-athletes who request an answer to the question, is outstanding achievement, dedication and sacrifice to be rewarded? Their future employment opportunities certainly should be judged on that criteria. What is different about their athletic accomplishments?

The example that most exemplified the dilemma to me is in pool C of the proposed estimated championships births. In reviewing pool C, the recommended pool would be selected nationally based on a team's win/loss record within its conference and region. There are aspects of this that are troubling to me. First, the criteria is based solely on winning percentage without regard to strength of schedule or those other criteria that our sports committees have put forward. The prevailing philosophy of teams currently is held that by upgrading one's own schedule, a program is enhanced relative to quality of play and the attractiveness of that institution.

The Division III philosophy answers your question no matter how you look at it. Yes, we would be looking for an emphasis on regional and conference play, but we've also spoken relative to the opportunity for championships and championships for all. We have serious concerns. I was pleased, obviously, that the presidents have elected that this vote come through the floor for a vote rather than being presented to us by the presidents themselves. There are interesting aspects to come for us all. I know that many are listening and listening attentively. As Dan has pointed out, there have been significant changes from the first draft. I hope there will be many more when the final presentation goes forward. Thank you very much.

Tim Gleason:

I have a reminder that the Spouses' Hospitality Suite is located on the Voyager Lawn, the north end of the hotel by the Voyager Restaurant, sponsored by Outback Trophy. I'd like to open this up for questions. Please use the microphone. State your name and where you're from. If you want to make some comments, please feel free to do that, as well. We've got everybody up here to handle whatever we might have.

Dennis Collins:

I'll start it off Tim, Dennis Collins, from the North Coast Athletic Conference. I want to say that I realize how difficult issues like automatic qualification are for committees. It's like making sausage. In the sausage process here, I'd like to tell you a little story. About a year ago, the Division III commissioners voted unanimously to support automatic qualifications. That's before we saw all of the requirements attached to it. One in particular that I'm concerned about is, we have a smaller conference, a conference of nine members. I don't want to speak for them, but in our Great Lakes Region, there are a couple of other smaller conferences, Michigan and Indiana, so we have some of the smaller conferences in the country. They are good conferences, and certainly, conferences like Michigan that is more than 100 years old.

Under the early proposal to make a minimum of eight to be a conference automatic qualifier in a sport, was a real concern for us. That puts us right on the bubble. If we've got seven field hockey teams and we can't find one in the four state area, we're out of luck. We're a conference that plays good field hockey. We have a real concern that we might be disenfranchised with that particular number.

I'm also glad the leadership has chosen to put this crucial vote to the membership, the one-school, one-vote, that we just reaffirmed two years ago. Some of these major issues, like, what size will a conference be in Division III, are really not the purview of one committee, but are basic important issues the membership needs to decide. One of the things we have overlooked in the transition is administrative legislation. Years ago, we didn't have any money, we didn't have many brackets and it was pretty easy work. Now, as we grow as a division and keep on growing, issues like this are cropping up. I don't have the answer now, but there needs to be a way to have the membership be able to flag some of these major issues of principle or determination for our membership and get them on the ballot.

Maybe, Bridget, there's a way we can look at the administrative regulations we have on the books so we can flag some of these major principles, like the size of conference. The committee has done the right thing by giving it to the membership. There will be more issues like this as we grow. Please take that to heart as far as that comment goes.

Arleigh Dodson:

Arleigh Dodson from the Northwest Conference. Pay particular attention as you move from the constitution with principles into the management articles and into the administrative articles. There is quite a bit of slippage. The last speaker, Jim Nelson, highlighted that difference between what ends up in Article 31 as opposed to what's there in the constitution and in the Management Articles, Article 20, in particular. You need to pay close attention to that. I like the phrase you use in the constitution itself where in Article Two, there appear to be those broad contradictory sort of things. The language in the constitution is very nice. It talks about delicate balance. There is that delicate balance that needs to be achieved in this proposal. It's a wonderful move, but we have to pay attention.

What happens is that we change some things, we have provision, for example in Article 31 for mixed conferences. We now have four possibilities for mixed conferences. We have addressed cleanly three of the mixes, NAIA, NCAA, dual membership mix. We have addressed a choice, non-choice mix. You can choose out and this is accounted for in Article 31. We have not touched the issue of provisional. That's going to be the only way you can gain new members. Therefore, as we gain new members, every conference in here is going to be faced with having provisional members. We have changed the bylaws that will allow us to now have eligibility as a conference with provisional members, but we have not changed all of the selection process. If in 31, a provisional member, as a conference member wins, then you're out. You lose your automatic qualification by the existing Article 31.

In sharp contrast, all of the other mixes, where they are treated simply as invisible, therefore, if an NAIA member in your conference wins, that's fine. It makes no difference. You still pick the top person that's in the NCAA Division III teams. You need to pay close attention to that.

Finally, region, because there are some ins and outs of the regions as we go around the country. For example, we have a problem in the northwest because we must play in order to get enough games, we must play out of our region. We must play Canadian schools. Specifically, Simon Fraser, and yet, they are in no region. Therefore, it won't count as we get evaluated in the various pools.

You're proposing things that change 31.2 and 31.3 and specifically, accountable competition. That is somewhat hidden in the debate, so I would like to bring it out strongly. Not only are you doing an evaluation process and a selection process, but you are doing accountable competition change, therefore, you must get into 31 and I hope those changes come forward at convention to vote on.

Bridget Belgiovine:

Just to clarify, anything that will be changed in Bylaw 31 will come to the membership so, you don't need to be concerned about that. Anything that's going to change the current bylaw will go before you.

One of the other issues that ought to be addressed, and it doesn't appear anywhere on the principles document, is the fact that everything that people are focusing on now is based on existing regions in each sport you look at. Part of what may have to happen is if the principles are adopted, then the sport committees may need to go back in and do some readjusting of the regions. That's not identified anywhere, but there have been several comments made that we've received regarding one region having 58 teams and another region having only 28 teams. There are already some inequities in the numbers of institutions within regions. That would be something the sports committees need to go back in and look at as you play out the process.

Leon Lunder:

Leon Lunder, from Carlton College. Thanks for that clarification, Bridget, because that was one thing I was hoping would be reconsidered, was re-examining regional alignment. Dan, you had mentioned your concern over the pool C numbers not adjusting if we went to the eight-to-one ratio. I'm less concerned about pool C and I'm coming from an institution where our chance of qualifying automatically would be minimal in our conference. We don't win a lot of championships.

The student-athletes are asking for a clear distinct path by which they can qualify. If we know that the ratio is one-to-eight, that's why I think the eight makes sense, even if some conferences are smaller than that, that makes sense because that's a ratio of access to championship. If they know that if they win their conference and their conference has a one-to-eight, has eight members, they know they're going to get the chance to advance. They aren't going to have to wait for some obscure phone call in that particular situation.

The other piece that's been of concern is the independents. What do we do with the independents? By taking the conferences that do not have eight members in a given particular program or sport and adding the independents to that at the same ratio, they know that opportunity is going to exist. The second and third place teams are going to be a crapshoot because they didn't win their conference. They didn't take care of the up-front opportunity. You get into the argument about strength of region. There have been schools eliminated from postseason competition with perfect seasonal records because an arbitrary decision was made that those conferences just aren't strong enough. That isn't fair to those kids. It isn't fair to those institutions. It isn't fair to those regions when that situation happens.

The ratio is a good ratio. That's the access. We should stay with the eight. I speak against dropping that lower. That opportunity for the independents and the schools that do not have the eight members to advance gives them a fair access opportunity, even though it's never going to be perfect.

I want to speak again to the fact that regional re-alignment is important. There may be some value in considering, even in that pool C, to be more regional as opposed to national.

Dick Kaiser:

Dick Kaiser, from Olivet College. I guess I don't totally understand this because the gentleman just talked about a crapshoot about who's going to go to the various places if they stay with the one-to-eight. As I understand it, if we go one-to-eight in pool B, there are more regional crapshoots than in any other place because they are having to be decided by a committee. Is that not correct?

To me, it makes more sense to lower the one-to-eight to either one-to-seven or one-to-six so that the emphasis, and this is where the philosophy is from our statement to place the emphasis on more conference play, to one-to-seven. There are some institutions that do not win very many conference championships. If we win one, we would like to have an opportunity. If we don't win one, at least we've got a shot, if we're a second place team in Pool C. If you go to one-to-eight, in my conference, the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the oldest conference in America, we could get thrown in several sports into a situation where we're a regional crapshoot.

We would very much encourage and hope everyone would vote for a lower level.

From the Panel:

You make a very good point and I think President Caine alluded to it in his talk about if you reward or set the limit or the standard at six or seven, obviously, that's more inclusive. What is also does is, it shows more respect for the autonomy of the various conferences. We have conferences among the membership who don't allow off-campus recruiting, who don't participate in non-traditional seasons, who intentionally do things that may place themselves at a competitive disadvantage on a nationwide scale. But, I think it's been the Division III tradition to, nevertheless, respect those institutions that group themselves and play by those rules. I would like to think we can find a way to reward those conferences and allow those student-athletes who win those conferences an opportunity for a postseason experience.

As we've talked about this for many months now, a lot of people have said they want to be able to tell their students how they can get to the playoffs. We want to be able to make that simple statement. When do you qualify for postseason play? If you don't win your championship, then you go into the crapshoot, then you take your chances in pool C. But, for those of you who are in conferences, it will be refreshing for them to be able to say to their student-athletes, "Win your conference. Go to the playoffs." It's as simple as that.

Bob Bunnell:

Bob Bunnell, director of athletics at Kenyon College. Whenever I take a proposal to my boss or the president, I need to provide factual data to support my assumption or proposal. Please correct me if I'm wrong on these two guiding assumptions that are being made to change this access to championship route. First of all, the assumption seems to be in team sports only, not individual sports. Our institutions are playing too much out of their conference or too much out of their region. Is that a correct assumption? We're trying to fix something that is broken.

From the Panel:

What we've heard is that in some cases, that is what is happening. In some cases, coaches are going to athletics directors who are going to presidents trying to justify out of area travel on the basis that it will strengthen their chances for post season opportunities. One thing we've heard in support of this is they would like to relieve that pressure. They want to get out of that decision making. To get out of that situation where they would have to spend a lot of money, get them out of class, etc., to put them into a better position to qualify for championships.

Bob Bunnell:

When I make an assumption such as that to my boss, I'm asked to give factual data. What data do you have that this indicates that this is really so, that this is really a problem, that presidents and athletics directors are feeling this pressure? I'm having a difficult time understanding what the problem is. If it's a few presidents or athletics directors feeling pressure, then it doesn't seem to be substantial data, to me.

A second assumption is that too many non-conference champions are winning Division III national championships. Is that a correct assumption? Why is that a problem then? Do we have data on that? How many of those national champions have actually been conference champions?

From the Panel:

I don't think the issues are as much at-large. Some of it was just the subjectivity of the selection process and the other thing was to honor conference champions to get into the championship. That's where it came from, more than a concern of who was or was not winning a championship.

Bob Bunnell:

That would be one piece of interesting and informative data to indicate that conference champions are the indicators of the best teams in the national championship. That data would be helpful to know.

From the Panel:

I've heard two things. One has been the desire to give conference champions a chance to go on and that we have a process that disfranchises too many conference champions. I certainly have heard that we do have too many Division III institutions that think they need to go about the country and strengthen their schedule out of region and even subordinate their conference competition in order to go for national championships. I'm not sure I have a way of proving that, it that's the case.

Bob Bunnell:

It seems like some pretty wide-sweeping generalizations have been made here and this is a very substantial proposal that would change the way our championships structure lays out. Without real data, I have a tough time even considering a proposal such as this. Anecdotal evidence is not acceptable, I don't believe. Before this goes to a vote, I believe some more homework needs to be done to get those real numbers. Perhaps a survey of the CEOs or the presidents of these institutions might be in order.

We are always told in Division III about institutional autonomy and the presidents taking charge of their athletics programs. The presidents and the athletics directors have the authority to tell their athletes and coaches to stay in region and stay in conference. I'm not sure that national legislation is something that's really necessary.

From the Panel:

There is a survey right now on my desk and on the desk of all CEOs in Division III related to the automatic qualification issue. You may have seen it. It is an effort to stimulate thinking on the part of CEOs about the principles we're talking about. There is room for comment and I hope we'll get something out of that.

One of our great challenges now is that, under the new structure, the presidents will have the final authority. We haven't yet found a good way of getting the level of expression of opinion from CEOs that we need in order to implement the new structure. That's where we're spending a lot of time right now.

Tim Gleason:

We should wind this down. I'd like to thank Bridget and Donna for all of their help. We've seen a lot of good stuff come out of here. It's another step that we've taken. Let's give our panelists, Dan, Stan and Jim. Thank you all for coming.