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posted 10.10.2012 at 3.47 p.m. by Jac Coyne

Podesta Details MCLA Restructuring Proposal

Back in mid-August, MCLA president Tony Scazzero said that a restructuring proposal – including a new Division III – was in the offing and could be soon in the hands of the Executive Board. Considering the potential impact, I hypothesized what this new framework might mean to the association. I quickly found out that some of my posits were incorrect, so I connected with Gary Podesta, the architect of the new proposal and the chair of the MCLA's competition committee, to get the full details.

It's important to know, and Podesta continually emphasized the point, that this is strictly a proposal. Many of my follow up questions were met with, "Unknown at this time," from Podesta. Not that it was a big secret, but rather all of the finer details haven't been completely hammered out (much of it to do with regional alignments and funding).

Further, while the informal proposal will find its way into the hands of the Executive Board when it meets Dec. 1 in Dallas, there are many aspects of the proposal that are contingent on the results of a survey – currently being tweaked by Podesta and Westminster coach Mason Goodhand – that will be distributed to coaches, team presidents and/or club directors. It is hoped that this survey will go out sometime in early 2013.

Podesta's concept starts with a fundamental alteration of how teams fit into the divisional structure. Unlike before, when teams were viewed through the prism of their football programs (schools with a BCS football team are mandated to play in D-I, all the rest were considered traditional D-II schools, but could choose to "play up"), teams may select whichever of the three divisions in the new format based on whatever is best for their program.

Here are the pertinent points concerning Podesta's proposal:

- Again, divisional choice would be up to the individual schools and/or conferences, except for fully-sponsored NAIA programs, which would have to be Division I.
- Teams would have to spend three years in a division before being eligible to apply for reclassification.
- Teams would have to keep and post a set of statistics mandated by the MCLA, as well as fill out game reports and official evaluations, to remain eligible for the postseason.
- This proposal would likely not go into effect until at least 2014, and probably 2015, if adopted.

Division I

- No automatic qualifying bids to the national tournament. All teams will be selected by the committee on an at-large basis.
- Teams must play at least 12 games, with eight of them being non-conference games and five of those being outside of the state/region.
- Dues would remain the same, and there would be a weekly poll, All-Americans, etc.

"Based on these guidelines, teams will have to have bigger budgets and have an ability to fundraise," Podesta said. "You're really going to want to play a national schedule. If a team doesn't want to make the commitment, have the finances or can hire a coach to get to that level, they can opt to go Division II."

When I asked Podesta whether this was similar to the "Premier Division" concept that had cropped up a couple of years ago, he said it was, but teams have a choice not to play in it, unlike the Premier idea.

Division II

- Automatic qualifying bids to the national tournament would remain, with the at-large pool being selected by the committee.
- In order to be eligible for an at-large berth teams must play a minimum of 12 MCLA games (against either D-I or D-II), play four non-conference games, with two of those coming outside of the conference/region.
- In order for a conference to be eligible for an AQ, it would have to have seven teams (it's currently six).
- Dues would remain the same, and there would be a weekly poll, All-Americans, etc.

Division III

- There will be no national tournament, weekly polls, All-Americans, etc. As such, there are no minimums for games played.
- No NAIA schools are eligible
- Junior college and community colleges are eligible to participate.
- Division I or Division II teams that wish to have a second or third team at their school (i.e., JV) could have those teams participate in Division III (the same eligibility rules would apply).
- Dues would be half of the standard for Divisions I & II.

Podesta's key points about this league is he didn't want it to be viewed as a developmental league or, as he put it, "a beer league." All of the MCLA standards and practices must be followed, especially in terms of eligibility, and all of the uniform specs outlined by the NCAA would be adhered to.

"It's for those schools who don't want to put in the resources, or the school limits how much they can do," said Podesta. "The kids want to play, but not get crazy about fundraising or the other things. It also gives us an opportunity to bring more people into the MCLA fold. There are numerous teams that just want to be part of the MCLA."

Again, this is just Podesta's proposal to the executive board and board of directors. Nothing is set in stone, and things will be tweaked based on the survey results and feedback. In addition, there are lingering questions that have yet to be tackled (Will the tournament sizes stay the same? Will the tournament have host sites that feed into a unified "Final Four?" Will conferences be combined to form regions?).

Will it work? Well, that's the question. It'll be interesting to see how things play out.