NCAA Nixes Tourney Expansion

At its meetings in Chicago last week, the NCAA Championships Cabinet rejected a proposal to expand the NCAA men’s Division I championships from 12 teams to 16.

The proposal, brought by the newly-formed MAAC, would have taken effect either next season or possibly for the 2000-01 tournament, and would probably have required a move to four regionals of four teams apiece, rather than the current two.

As well as increasing tournament opportunities for all D-I programs, the proposed expansion would likely have made it easier for the MAAC, currently in its first year of existence, to obtain an automatic bid for its conference champion to participate in the tourney.

Autobids are currently in place for the four previously-existing conferences: the CCHA, WCHA, Hockey East and ECAC. Each of those leagues automatically sends both its regular-season and playoff champion to the NCAA tournament.

Although men’s hockey has added several Division I teams recently, including the advent of the MAAC, and expects several more in the next couple of years as Division II programs move up, the cabinet felt that trend was not sufficient to warrant immediate expansion.

“We looked at their sponsorship trends and we really felt that right now they’re pretty flat,” cabinet chair Jean Lenti Ponsetto, senior associate athletic director at DePaul University, was quoted in the online edition of the Ann Arbor (Mich.) News Friday. “Having 12 spots for 52 members gives people a pretty good opportunity to participate in the championship.

The door, however, was left open for future efforts.

“We’ll invite men’s ice hockey to come back to us again if their numbers start to move,” Ponsetto said. “Right now, with 12 teams of 52 getting a chance, that’s close to one-in-four.”