D-III to Adopt New Regional Format in '14
After being relegated to the secondary realm during past (and present) tournament selection processes, contests between non-region opponents will be considered among primary criteria for NCAA Division III selection committees — including men's lacrosse — starting in 2014, according to current selection committee chair Steve Koudelka and other sources.
The current format calls for results against in-region opponents to be examined first by the committee, with non-region matchups coming into play only as a secondary consideration or, as Koudelka refers to them as, "discussion points."
The new protocol mandates that every team still play at least 70 percent of its games in-region, but the remaining (up to) 30 percent will count in the primary record and strength of schedule (SOS) numbers pored over by the committee.
"In the past, if Lynchburg played Cortland in an out-of-region game, that would only be brought up in discussion points even though we were both regionally-ranked in our region," said Koudelka, who is also Lynchburg head coach. "That was a secondary criterion. Now if we play Cortland (in 2014), even though that would be one of our 30 percent outside the region, it would still be considered useful for selection to the NCAA tournament."
The 70-30 change will have less of an impact on men's lacrosse, which only has two regions, as opposed to some other sports in Division III that have six or eight, but Koudelka envisions it potentially giving the committee some added prospective when attempting to compare program résumés.
"If you're a NESCAC school and play maybe three games against other Northern region teams, and then you have a team that did the same thing in the South, it is very hard to compare apples and apples," Koudelka said. "It's hard to do that with a Pool C bid right now, but this will give you a couple more games — it won't be a ton — to look at to give you information. Maybe you'll have another regionally-ranked win. Those things could be helpful. It's just more data to look at, essentially."
In addition to hashing out Pool C (and B) bids, the new format will also provide a little bit of a scheduling break to those teams operating off of the Eastern Seaboard. For instance, now the schools in NCAC, which are currently billeted in the South, will be able to play teams in New York that might be closer than many Southern schools and still have them count on the docket. Independents such as Whittier and Colorado College, also South region teams, will have some more options to find useful games.
"Any time you can have flexibility in your scheduling without being over the top with it, I think that is nice for coaches," Koudelka said.
Another side benefit may be the rise of more marquee inter-regional clashes. Already in the works for the spring of 2014 — tentatively scheduled for the weekend of March 15 in Owings Mills, Md. — is a seismic mini-tournament featuring Cortland, Tufts, Lynchburg and Stevenson in which every team will play two predetermined contests. It's a fantastic event for fans of the division, but it could also resonate on Selection Sunday, which is the way it should be.
It will be business as usual for the committee this spring, which will be Koudelka's last year as a rep, but when 2014 rolls around, NCAA Division III lacrosse will be a little less provincial.