In a bold statement of its objection to regionalization, the Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Committee, along with the committees of 13 other sports, has submitted a report to the NCAA’s Championships and Competition Cabinet. In doing so, the committee also provided an outline to the Cabinet for how it believes the NCAA tournament should proceed under a 16-team, four-regional format.
In the last week of June, the Cabinet will convene for its quarterly meeting with the important “regionalization” item on the agenda. In anticipation, it asked for official thoughts from all the sports that were affected.
The ice hockey committee obliged with a detailed look into its vision for the future.
Regionalization is a plan implemented by the Cabinet last year that eventually forced the men’s ice hockey committee to create NCAA tournament brackets that strictly adhered to geography. With only 12 teams and two regions to juggle, the tournament field ended up greatly imbalanced.
The plan was defended as a reaction to the tragic terrorist actions of last Sept. 11. Even though regionalization of some form had previously been discussed by the NCAA as a way to save money, Sept. 11 was the catalyst to implementing a strict plan that was intended to limit teams from having to travel by air.
The critics doubted the effectiveness of the plan, and lamented the affect it had on the tournament. The concern was that regionalization would continue as a cost-saving measure, even with air travel fears having subsided.
The ice hockey committee’s report reiterates its belief in a “national” tournament. It also acknowledges the further complications that will arise with the creation of four four-team brackets, which will occur with the expected August rubber stamping by the NCAA’s Executive Committee of the tournament’s expansion to 16 teams.
As a result, more than just opining that regionalization should be scrapped, the committee laid out a detailed proposal for how it believes the tournament should be arranged in the future.
In the plan, the committee continues to acknowledge the importance of maximizing revenue by keeping high-draw and host schools in their home region, but also emphasizes the importance of a “national feel” to the tournament.
Ice hockey has some clout, considering the 2002 men’s tournament netted over $1 million in revenue for the NCAA.
Of the 17 NCAA sports affected by regionalization, 14 have submitted reports objecting to its continuation. However, two that supported it, men’s soccer and women’s soccer, have already been following a form of regionalization even before last season, and have much bigger tournament fields, making it easier to offset the affects of regionalized brackets.
The final supporter, Division I-AA football, gave tepid support, saying there was “no significant negative impact” and “the participants understood the rationale,” but continuing to say, “… however, if given the option they would have preferred the previous format.”
The full text of the men’s ice hockey report is below. The entire report of all 17 sports can be found on the NCAA’s site.
Men’s Ice Hockey Committee Report to the NCAA’s Championships and Competition Cabinet
June 2, 2002
The Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Committee favors the selection of teams on a national basis. As a revenue-generating championship, it also favors the pairing of teams on a national basis.
The committee feels that the bracket was impacted negatively due to the implementation of the new policies for 2001-02. It felt that it was not able to provide competitive equity in bracket, as it had been able to do in the past, with the top teams this year being from the West region and having to compete in the West region. With the previous policy, the committee would have had the ability to move teams across regions.
With the Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship field being increased to 16 teams, the following is a suggestion on the format for such a tournament. The model covers several issues including selection of teams, placement of teams in regionals, and priorities for the committee to consider when developing the championship field.
In setting up the tournament, we begin with a list of priorities to ensure a successful tournament on all fronts including competitive equity, financial success and likelihood of playoff-type atmosphere at each regional site. For this model, the following is a basic set of priorities:
1) The top four teams as ranked by the committee are the four number one seeds.
2) Host institutions that qualify must be placed at home to ensure tickets are sold.
3) No. 1 seeds are placed as close to home as possible in order of their ranking 1-4.
4) Conference matchups in first round are avoided.
Four regions are formed, each with a name: Northeast (Worcester), East (TBA), Midwest (Ann Arbor), West (TBA). The four winners are regional champions that advance to the Men’s Frozen Four.
The next step is to develop four groups from the committee’s rankings of 1-16. The top four teams are number one seeds. The next four are targeted as number two seeds. The next four are number three and the last four are number four seeds.
The next process is to fill out the bracket.
Step one is to place the number one seeds since the top priority is to have the top four teams as ranked by the committee as the number one seeds regardless of region.
Step two is to place the home teams. The four sites are Ann Arbor, West building, Worcester, and one more East building for both years. If Michigan and Boston University are selected, Michigan stays home in Ann Arbor and Boston University stays in Worcester, since they are hosting. Depending on who hosts the two remaining sites, this list could grow.
Step three is to place number one seeds closest to their campus as possible.
Step four is to fill in the bracket so the first round conference matchups are avoided.
To complete each regional you simply take one team from each of the remaining seeding groups. The seeding groups give the committee flexibility to avoid first round conference matchups while at the same time being able to place regional teams in each building to cut down on travel costs and potentially increase ticket revenue.
In 2002, the four number one seeds are split evenly east and west and Boston University plays in Worcester as the host. Therefore, New Hampshire is the top seed in the East. Denver gets priority and is placed as the number one seed in the West. Minnesota is placed in the Midwest. Also, as a host, Michigan is No. 2 in the Midwest. That bracket may have looked like this:
No. 1 Boston University vs. No. 4 Quinnipiac
No. 2 Michigan State vs. No. 3 Cornell
No. 1 New Hampshire vs. No. 4 Harvard
No. 2 Maine vs. No. 3 Northern Michigan
Midwest (Ann Arbor):
No. 1 Minnesota vs. No. 4 Wayne State (Michigan)
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Colorado College
No. 1 Denver vs. No. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell
No. 2 St. Cloud State (Minnesota) vs. No. 3 Alaska-Fairbanks