Division 3 Hockey: A Broken System
Adrian College was the No. 1 overall seed heading into the Div. III men’s ice hockey NCAA tournament this season.
They won their conference tournament (The NCHA — which may be the toughest conference in the country) outright and earned a first-round bye into the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament.
The team they played in the first round? Wisconsin Stevens-Point, who was ranked inside the top five of every USCHO weekly poll except for three, when they were either sixth or seventh, and the team that went on to win the national championship.
How does a team that was ranked No. 1 overall play a team that was ranked in the top five nearly all season in the first round?
A broken system, that’s how.
“It’s designed to keep the play expenses down in the preliminary rounds,” Ray Biggs, Managing Editor of D3hockey.com and Play-By-Play for Utica Men’s hockey said. “So what you get as a result is this messy tournament seedings.”
The tournament consists of three pools that create a total of 11 teams to participate for the national championship.
Biggs mentioned Adrian, who often receives an unfair matchup in their first round with their location and lack of proximity to other schools who make the tournament.
The NCAA has a rule for Div. III sports that schools within 500 miles of a competition site are required to travel via ground transportation (Unless the school wants to pay for the airfare travel themselves, which none want to)
“What you end up getting are these situations where there are only certain schools that can go and play them in a preliminary round game,” Biggs said. “You may not necessarily have the low seeds playing the high seeds because of that travel restriction.”
That’s exactly what we had when the top seeded-team had to play first round game against a team that went on to win the national championship game.
I understand that there are only 76 teams to choose from but a clear disadvantage exists for Div. III hockey, as only 12 teams will be making the NCAA tournament.
(It has been 11, but Biggs has said the selection committee has voted to increase it 12, with approval from the financial committee and a final signature.)
But in Div. I hockey, the entire field is 60 teams, with 16 making the tournament, which is about 27 percent of the teams.
In Div. III, with the 76 teams in the field only 11, until this upcoming year with 12 now, made the NCAA tournament, about 15 percent.
That’s nearly half the chance to make the tournament if you’re in Div. III compared to Div. 1.
“The real logical flaw in all of this, the NCAA is always trying to promote the pure-student athlete,” Biggs said. “The NCAA’s largest Division is Div. III, easily. Why is it that our championships are afforded the minuscule portion of the overall championship budgets that they are? If the NCAA is all about what they say they are all about, they need to allocate fair share of the pie.”
Sure, of course Div. III does not receive the funding or create the revenue that Div. I does, but if the NCAA wants to create fair competition, they need to be able to promote incentives for teams that perform the best, not just the teams that have the best location.