The Division III Championships Committee on Tuesday recommended that, due to COVID-19 concerns, winter and spring 2021 national championship brackets and field sizes not exceed 75 percent of their standard capacity.
For both men’s and women’s hockey, this means no more than nine teams in their respective national tournaments instead of the standard 12.
According to the NCAA, 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.
“This decision was not made lightly,” said Kiki Jacobs, committee chair and the director of athletics at Roger Williams, in a statement. “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 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.
Following the recommendation of the recently expanded NCAA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group, all tournament sites will be predetermined in an effort to safely host winter championships. Testing and other sanitation protocol requirements will increase total expenses for winter and spring championships, adding 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.
The committee also voted, again, due to COVID-19, to reduce the winter sports contest minimums to 50 percent to reach championships eligibility status in 2021.