The committee covers all sports in DIII so it’s sometimes hard looking at the agenda to know what impacts volleyball. This go-around there is an item called, “Sport region realignment proposal”, that obviously would touch our great sport. The report linked above mainly talks about this agenda item but also mentions that they will probably implement a rule where conference opponents will not meet in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. This has been the norm in volleyball so I assume this agenda item was specific to other sports.
The agenda also mentioned, “Conference requirements for AQ eligibility”, which is certainly interesting to me given that we only have 19 at-large bids currently in volleyball. I didn’t see any meeting minutes on this item and frankly the agenda item could mean almost anything. I’m hopeful a more complete meeting minute document will be made available in the future.
So, let’s go back to realignment. Volleyball currently has over 400 member schools playing in 8 regions. The report indicates that sports with that number would move to 9 or 10 regions and with our number of schools, we should expect 10 regions. As a reminder, here were the number of member schools by region last season with the number of AQ conferences:
- Central – 42 schools with 4 AQ*
- Great Lakes – 49 schools with 5 AQs*
- Mid-Atlantic – 63 schools with 7 AQs*
- Midwest – 52 schools with 4 AQs*
- New England – 78 schools with 8 AQs*
- New York – 72 schools with 7 AQs*
- South – 37 schools with 3 AQs*
- West – 38 schools with 4 AQs
* The UAA has an AQ and is not counted above as it contains schools from the Central, Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, New England, New York and South.
(The member school count above does not include provisional or reclassifying schools.)
The report suggests that they would like regions to contain around 40 schools, which means that 10 regions will be the magic number since that seems to be their maximum. At first glance, you would think the Central, South and West will probably stay intact. On the flip side, with the New York and New England regions being so large but also close together, we can see that the two new regions will be in this area. If they could also take one of the Mid-Atlantic conferences to reduce their number then you probably have the basis of the realignment. I assume there could be small changes but remember the report says the committee wants to maintain conference members in the same region. With this outline, the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions might become our largest.
Let’s assume that this is the plan. The natural next question is what will be the impact? One of the big benefits the larger regions get right now is that they can regionally rank more teams. When you couple this benefit with the fact that these larger regions haven’t been our strongest, it means their teams have a better chance to be rewarded in the NCAA selection criteria by beating worse teams because they are still regionally ranked. With this realignment, each region will most likely all rank 8 teams. That’s really a good start but let’s remember that by creating 2 additional regions from arguably our weakest regions, you get 4 really weak regions. Not to get too detailed here, but I assume the New England Region would break off the NEWMAC and the NESCAC into different regions and frankly we’ll probably see those conferences fill up their 8 regionally ranked teams.
So, now we have 10 regions with four of them in the northeast. Maybe the Mid-Atlantic sheds a conference, which would strengthen the new New York Region. (By the way, Mid-Atlantic conferences, I highly suggest volunteering for this move as soon as you can! Your entire conference could be regionally ranked!) In the end, these teams have shown that they are not going to travel so they will continue to play teams as they have done in the past.
So, what’s the impact? THINGS ARE GOING TO GET WORSE for the other 6 regions! If you break up the New England Region into two regions, you now are regionally ranking 16 teams instead of 12! And what if they just split up the New York Region without adding another conference? That’s 16 New York teams regionally ranked! Seriously, I just scared myself to the point I just peed a little. The NCAA Selection Committee has shown that they don’t understand how the selection criteria favors the northeast and this just tilts the selection criteria even more. I frankly don’t see why anyone would approve this plan outside of the northeast without a change to the NCAA selection criteria or without changes into how the criteria are evaluated.