Monday, July 25, 2005

College Divisions: Div II Nationals - Expansion of QotW

Chimpo's Question of the Week has sparked a discussion on the implementation of a 2nd College Nationals. Where does the line get drawn? Are teams in a second division in that division there the whole year or is it only determined after sectionals/regionals? Are teams allowed to move up or down at will? Will a 2nd Nationals even work? The previous thread is about whether divisions are necessary due to the expansion of the college division, so rather than redirect the conversation of that thread, we can use this thread to discuss how a 2nd Nationals would have to work.

Recent comments by Dusty, Heacox, and Jim Palmer have talked about making a 2nd (Div II) Nationals and having the splot occur at that point rather than at the beginning of the season. Palmer and Dusty have made good points about how the split could occur right after regionals to allow teams that didn't make nationals to still get good competition and continue their season. Heacox pointed out that tournaments like that have existed in the past and have failed because of a lack of attendance.

It seems to me like what has been put forth is kind of like an NIT tournament, where a good finishing at regionals but failure to make nationals gets you an invitation. Extra invitations can be extended as needed to get a full field of teams. The difficulty of that system is travel and interest. UPA College Nationals happens too late in the year, and a 2nd "less important" Div II tournament would certainly be less likely to get teams if it were that late. College Nationals is 3 weeks after the last regionals, maybe if it was two weeks instead it would be easier to get interest because we would be past the last days of school (Dusty, care to comment on the timing of Nationals and the end of school dates, it has been a while since some of us have been in college?).

Another issue is travel. It is a lot to ask the loser of a nasty 2/3 game in New England to hop a plane to California to play in another tournament. While this will probably lead to them declining the bid (which opens a bid up for another team), wouldn't they be more likely to go if the tournament was closer to home, say in Maryland or Virginia? But then what about the teams from the west coast? A 2nd Invitation-only nationals will (like Heacox said) have poor nationwide attendance because of the burden on distant teams (like HS Nationals was for a while, or maybe still is).

Perhaps an alternate solution is to have multiple tournaments. 4 lets say. Each tournament caters to two regions, taking the next 12-16 teams from the regionals of those two regions. This allows for more cross-regional play against good, but apparently not the best of teams. In order to prevent over-repeating matchups you could even switch the pairings of the regionals yearly in order to expose more teams to each other. Although this isn't really another nationals (more like a super-regional), hopefully having it quickly after regionals, and always somewhat closer to the participating schools would increase attendance.

I'm sure there are lots of problems with this idea, and probably lots of better ideas so have at it people.

Martin

11 comments:

_dusty_ said...

I wasn't proposing a D-2 Nationals as a tournament with all the 3, 4 or 5th place teams from regionals; rather, I was suggesting that after SECTIONALS, the split is made. Top N teams qualify for D-1 Regionals, next N teams advance to D-2 Regionals. I'll use the 2005 AC for an example:

South section (5 bids):
D1: UGA, Florida, GT, FSU, USC
D2: Emory, Georgia Southern, Central Florida, Clemson, UGA-B

BR section (3 bids):
D1: Richmond, Virginia, Tennessee
D2: Mary Washington, William & Mary, Virginia Tech

NC section (4 bids):
D1: UNC, ECU, NC State, Davidson
D2: WF, Duke, Elon, UNC-W

All the D-1 teams would compete in D-1 Regionals, and top 2 qualify for D-1 Nationals. All the D-2 teams would compete at D-2 Regionals, and the top 2 qualify for D-2 Nationals. Teams from D-1 Regionals aren't eligible for D-2 Nationals. That way teams in D-2 Regionals know they have a shot at another tournament and a possible D-2 National Championship. Teams that finish 3-12 at either regional are done for the year. Teams that don't wish to compete after sectionals can withdraw and give their bid to the next team in line. This would hopefully avoid a lack of teams for D-2 nationals. If I learned anything in my 5 years of college ultimate, its that college kids always want to play more ultimate (especially meaningful games, like D-2 regionals/nationals would offer). I talked to several players on various teams at sectionals/regionals that were totally bummed that their season was over. I'm speculating here, but I bet Emory would have loved to have gone to D-2 regionals and played 4-5 competitive games instead of losing 2 games before 1pm on Saturday. Chimpo?

I cut the team numbers down to 12 per regional event, since I think the competition is more even across the top 12 in each division than the top 16. This makes regionals more competitive while still allowing more teams to participate. I gave each section 75% of their original regionals bids and the south got the extra due to having the most teams at sectionals.

I wouldn't want to limit any college's team's chance to play any other team in a pre-series event simply because they were in different divisions. Many NCAA D-1 football programs play a D-1AA or D-2 school in their non-conference schedule, no reason that should be different for ultimate. If Colorado wants to go to Podunk U's tournament and play a bunch of scrub teams, I don't think they should be turned away because the UPA says they are too good. Likewise, if Tulane can get into Centex and play some top-notch programs, more power to them.

I think the weekend before D-1 Nationals would be a great time for D-2 Nationals. I think having 3 weeks between regionals and nationals is great for the teams who expect to make nationals and plan ahead. When UGA went to Nationals in 2003, I don't think we had a single practice between regionals and nationals. Everyone went home after classes got out and it was tough to get everyone in one spot for practice. This year, we planned our pre-nationals practices after sectionals (not because we were cocky, but because we knew from 2k3 that we had to have a schedule ahead of time or else it would all fall apart). Sorry for the long post, I felt I needed to clarify my suggestion so we could get some better dialog on the subject.

heacox said...

Making the split post-Sectionals as opposed to post-Regionals makes for a very different sampling of teams, although looking at how this might have gone down in the AC Region this year, it seems that it satisfies the original intent of giving smaller schools or those with less-experienced programs their own "division."

However, the Div. II "Nationals" would now contain the 50th percentile and below teams, whereas if the split was done after Regionals, it would be like the 80th percentile and below. This is a crude assumption, but do people understand me? Teams that get knocked out at Div. I Regionals are likely much better than the teams competiting for the Div. II title, but that is probably how it is suppossed to be.

By only drawing the Div. II Championship teams from those that qualify for Regionals, you run the risk of having to fill out spots in the tournaments with Sectional teams that didn't compete at Regionals, which seems bad.

I think Dusty offers a thoughtful suggestion to implementing a divisional split in the college series. On a very basic level, there are now 50% more teams competiting at "Regionals," and more teams playing more ultimate is a good thing, right?

Martin said...

First of all, sorry I misinterpreted dusty's original idea. It looks like my inability to read english is catching up with me.

I do like the sectionals split idea. It does seem to satisfy a different need then the idea I put forth. Heacox's 50th percentile vs 80th percentile thing exaplains it well.

If the teams who made it to regionals but didn't make it to nationals go to this Div. II Super Regional thing, then the winners of those regionals are most likely teams that will be fighting for Div. I nationals spots in the next few years. In the case of an AC-South Super Regional I'm thinking teams like Oklahoma, Georgia Tech, Richmond, Kansas, NSCU, etc. While smaller teams will make it into the super regional (Rice, Tulane, Vandy, FSU, Tennessee) the odds of them winning are slightly smaller.

If we make the split at sectionals then the person holding up the Div. II title is a team that most likely never had a shot at making Div. I nationals. I think that is the point of a second division more than what I described. The other nice thing about making the split at sectionals is it allows your team to plan ahead much better for whichever nationals you are fighting for.

One side-effect of making the split at sectionals is that it makes sectionals important for more teams. For the most part sectionals is unimportant except for the teams at the bottom who are just trying to get into regionals. But if a split occurs after sectionals all of a sudden the teams at the middle of the pack have to play harder to guarantee that they will make it into Div. I regionals so they have a shot. Hmmm . . . I really like the idea of sectionals being important. Thanks for clarifying things Dusty.

So what happens with the good team that (unintentionally) does really poorly at sectionals and is cast into Div. II when they really should be playing Div. I?

M

Tarr said...

Broadly speaking, there are three potential split points. Post-regionals, post-sectionals, and pre-sectionals. Looking at each in order:

Post-regionals:

This is effectively the "NIT" idea. It has been put forth at least three times in recent memory, and has fallen through each time. Reasons include:

- top teams have already travelled extensively, and don't want to travel again except to compete at the top level.

- it's tough to get teams to spring for a long trip on short notice around finals time/graduation time/summer break. Nationals is only able to overcome this because of the great prestige of the event.

- mid-upper tier teams can get comprable competition at closer events, and don't feel the need to travel far to play other mide-upper tier teams.

Anyway, empirically we know this one is a non-starter. If the UPA supported it it would probably do better, but I still think it would be something of a failure since some teams would not attend.

Post-sectionals:

This has a couple advantages: it is less of a letdown tournament, and it better serves to create a "dive 2" than a "next 16" tournament does. And as Martin says, it makes sectionals more interesting for some teams. However, it has a few drawbacks:

- In some regions, you would have very, very few teams at div 2 regionals. Most women's divisions would have zero teams. Even as an open only concept, it would be a stretch in the west and the south.

- As Martin said, it could create a perverse effect at the borderline in competitive sections.

- It would require a tournament format that accurately determined not one, but two breakpoints. This is actually a valid criticism of both proposals.

- The idea that these teams can get good competition in-region is even more obvious in this setup than in a post-regionals split.

While any approach that could lead to Northwestern and Emory facing off at a "national championship" event would be sure to fill Matt Klenk with pride, I'm not sure this approach really accomplishes what we want. After all, the goal of a "div 2" on the college level should really be to give a place to schoold that can never really expect to compete for the championship.

All in all, I think the best approach for a split would be,

Pre-sectionals:

That is, a "best of the small schools" championship. Putting all the div 2 and div 3 schools there is a good starting point, although there should be some ability to move up or down by choice.

I'm not sure if the demand is really there yet, but I think this is the direction that we should eventually go in. This is the only way we can be sure to give every team a realistic shot at a championship.

By the way, I think the UPA is having some sort of committee meeting this summer to assess possible restructuring of the championship series. So if you're serious about this stuff, contact your UPA championship director.

Martin said...

Not to bicker, Tarr, but a "pre-sectional" split is a misleading term. The split that you are suggesting sounds like it would exist at the beginning of the year (although allowing schools to compete against whomever they wish). If all of the div 2/3 schools are already in the "best of the small schools championship," then don't we already know those schools. If that isn't what you are suggesting, then it sounds like the line will be redrawn every year, but there isn't an explained method for how that line will be drawn.

I still don't like the ability to move up or down by choice. Maybe it just feels wishy washy, but if we are going to go with existing divisions, then just go with it. I see a non-performance based, yet still variable split leading to all sorts of arguing and politiking (sp?).

Also, if you could explain the following:

- The idea that these teams can get good competition in-region is even more obvious in this setup than in a post-regionals split.

I think we all know I'm dumb, so if you could point out the obvious to me I would appreciate it.

M

Martin said...

Not to bicker, Tarr, but a "pre-sectional" split is a misleading term. The split that you are suggesting sounds like it would exist at the beginning of the year (although allowing schools to compete against whomever they wish). If all of the div 2/3 schools are already in the "best of the small schools championship," then don't we already know those schools. If that isn't what you are suggesting, then it sounds like the line will be redrawn every year, but there isn't an explained method for how that line will be drawn.

I still don't like the ability to move up or down by choice. Maybe it just feels wishy washy, but if we are going to go with existing divisions, then just go with it. I see a non-performance based, yet still variable split leading to all sorts of arguing and politiking (sp?).

Also, if you could explain the following:

- The idea that these teams can get good competition in-region is even more obvious in this setup than in a post-regionals split.

I think we all know I'm dumb, so if you could point out the obvious to me I would appreciate it.

M

Anonymous said...

- The idea that these teams can get good competition in-region is even more obvious in this setup than in a post-regionals split.

To choose an example from your own region, how often do the crummy Indiana/Illinois teams get to play the crummy Ohio teams? Yeah, there are teams that would be good competition in the region, but if they get into regionals at all, they don't get to play eachother because of the format. This is where a regionals for teams that aren't in the top 12 or 16 in their region is great.

heacox said...

Martin, I think Adam was saying that there is a noticiable drop-off in competitiveness even at the College Regional level. At least, that's how I interpreted that statement.

If this was ever to be a formal proposal to the UPA, there are a number of logistical concerns to be taken into account, because someone has to host/run these Div. II tournaments. And what happens if the host school suddenly has to play in the other Regionals?

I don't thik this invalidates anything, but it is nonetheless something that has to be worked through.

Chimpo said...

Loosing isn't fun, but getting blown out is worse. That is what I'm trying to get at with my question. I can tell you that bringing my team back to Regionals after the collapse we had in 2004 was a huge accomplishment for me, but loosing every single game there left the younger players unfulfilled.

My guys (Emory) like close games, and they like having bitter rivalries. They were so pumped up to play Elon this year at Terminus after they handed us a devastating loss from last year. They eat up one point games between teams like Ga Southern and Central Florida, and they just get intimidated when it comes time to play UGA, NCState, UNC, or GaTech.

Why not do something like what the Juniors game has moved to? Have Easterns and Westerns for the teams that dont make nationals or expland it to four mini-Nationals (N, E, S, and W)and teams that barely missed regionals can join in the fun, too?

Matt Klenk ain't got nothing on me.

mark said...

This has been implied, but an important thing to make this viable is that the D2 championship not be consolation for any team participating. While some teams might finish 4th at regionals and then be excited to go win the D2 championship, a very, very large percentage wouldn't care (hence the failure of the post regionals split).

This point also supports a pre-sectionals split. It effectively enables teams to set their own goals and would enable the most enthusiastic D2 championship.

However, another issue is that D1 & D2 sectionals would then become effectively useless. Even the largest men's sections (ie GL CP, AC South) only have ~8 teams with a real shot at making regionals, and much fewer than that of winning games at regionals (the ME might have more, but they have very few bids).

With an even split between "good" and "bad" in the GL CP, we'd have two sectionals of 10 teams. While those wouldn't be bad tournaments, they'd be two of the absolute largest in the country.

Moreover, say what you will about the ME, I think what they have at the sectionals level is a very good thing. The sectionals as a seeding tourney is nice, but seems a little silly after having so many games earlier in the season.

mark said...

Another thought would be to combine the post-sectionals and pre-sectionals splits. Set up a D2 sectionals, top X teams make D2 regionals. Then leave a similar number of spots for the top teams at D1 sectionals that don't make D1 regionals.

This creates all sorts of fun logistical problems, but that's why Tarr has free time.

Additionally, the number of D1 teams advancing from D1 sectionals to D2 regionals could be intentionally low. This would create incentive for borderline D1 regionals teams to play a longer season at the D2 level, and as a side effect create more competitive tournaments.

Regarding super regionals - something like what the HS division is doing makes a lot of sense. An unfortunate byproduct is that you'll end up playing a lot of the teams you played at regionals at D2 nationals.