The Division III Championships Committee on Tuesday recommended that winter and spring 2021 national championship brackets and field sizes not exceed 75 percent of their standard capacity.
A caveat to the proposal is if a sport’s maximum number of allocated automatic qualifiers surpasses the 75 percent threshold, the championship could expand the field to accommodate each automatic berth. This is consistent with the Division III philosophy of emphasizing conference competition. The committee’s main goal was to preserve access to NCAA championships through automatic qualification.
Field sizes for individual sports also would be reduced to 75 percent of their typical size.
The recommendation will make its way through the Division III governance structure, including getting feedback from winter and spring sport committees, before the Management and Presidents Councils make a final decision in October.
The financial impact wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic is the driving force behind the proposal.
The health crisis already has forced Division III to cancel its 2020 winter, spring and fall championships. As in many schools and conferences, tough financial decisions also are being made at the national level of college athletics.
Following the recommendation of the recently expanded NCAA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group, all tournament sites would be predetermined in an effort to safely host winter championships participants. Testing and other sanitation protocol requirements will increase total expenses for winter and spring championships. These two recommendations add approximately $9 million in additional costs and ultimately were the reason the committee made its recommendation.
Committee members arrived at the recommendation to reduce NCAA championship brackets and field sizes after considering several other cost-saving measures, including those that would have transferred costs to participating schools.
“This decision was not made lightly,” said Kiki Jacobs, committee chair and the director of athletics at Roger Williams. “We concluded this was the best way to provide high-quality championship experiences for student-athletes. Given the obligations to prepare sites and follow the required health protocols, the committee had to make the tough decision to recommend fewer opportunities this year.”
The committee will announce the composition of the NCAA tournament brackets, any necessary format adjustments and possible delays to the timing of winter championship selections later. Committee members will seek feedback from championship sports committees and evaluate national sports sponsorship numbers.
Committee members also voted to reduce the winter sports contest minimums to 50 percent to reach championships eligibility status in 2021.
Again, COVID-19 concerns drove the decision. The resulting minimums for championship eligibility consideration:
- Men’s basketball: 9
- Women’s basketball: 9
- Men’s ice hockey: 9
- Women’s ice hockey: 9
- Men’s swimming and diving: 4
- Women’s swimming and diving: 4
- Men’s indoor track and field: 2
- Women’s indoor track and field: 3
- Wrestling: 3