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By Gary Brown
The possibility of Division III conducting its men’s ice hockey championship game during the weekend of the Division I Frozen Four – at least on a one-year trial basis – came a step closer to reality when the Division III Management Council backed the concept at its meeting Monday and Tuesday in Indianapolis.
If approved by the Division III Presidents Council on Oct. 30, the one-year pilot would take place in 2014 when Division I conducts its Frozen Four in Philadelphia. The Division III championship game would be played on Friday, April 11, which is the day between the Division I semifinals and final.
After that, Division III governance groups would review to determine whether the combined championship approach would continue in subsequent years.
The concept isn’t necessarily new to the Division III men’s ice hockey community, which has discussed a combined championship for several years, but the idea wasn’t formally broached until the Division III Men’s Ice Hockey Committee proposed it to the Division III Championships Committee in September. The Championships Committee agreed that a combined approach could enhance the student-athlete experience, increase the viewing audience for both divisions and create more awareness for the sport. However, committee members were concerned about the proposal’s effect on the length of the season, which is an important tenet within the Division III philosophy.
Not surprisingly, that philosophical divide re-emerged during the Management Council discussion, particularly in light of a recent and similar discussion regarding the 2013 Division III Men’s Basketball Championship that will be held in conjunction with the Division I Men’s Final Four as part of the NCAA’s 75th men’s basketball celebration in Atlanta. While the basketball proposal was clearly a one-time ask to celebrate a unique milestone, the Management Council is aware that the Division III men’s ice hockey community is interested in a more permanent approach.
The rub is how the combined approach affects the championship season length. The ice hockey committee’s proposal would extend what has been a two-week championship to four (from selections to the final), and it would stage first-round games on the same weekend that the championship game is slated under the current formula.
|Current date formula for 2014||Proposed date formula for 2014|
|Selections – Sunday, March 9||Selections – Sunday, March 16|
|First round – Wednesday, March 12||First round – Saturday, March 22|
|Quarterfinals – Saturday, March 15||Quarterfinals – Saturday, March 29|
|Semifinals – Friday, March 21||Semifinals – Saturday, April 5|
|Championship game – Saturday, March 22||Championship game – Friday, April 11|
Several Management Council members viewed the proposal as further eroding an important Division III cornerstone and potentially disadvantaging multisport athletes. Others, though, thought the division would be in a better position to evaluate the effects on the concerns with the one-year trial having been conducted, rather than speculating.
That argument carried some weight, though the subsequent approval of the combined championship in 2014 came with the narrowest of margins (one vote, with several abstentions). It also came with a recommendation that that the Championships Committee forward criteria to the Management and Presidents Councils in order to evaluate the success of the trial championship format in light of the related philosophical concerns.
“Obviously, the same length-of-season concerns that prompted discussion about the basketball proposal came up with the ice hockey proposal, too,” said Management Council chair Jeff Martinez, athletics director at the University of Redlands. “Those concerns aren’t going to abate whether there’s a combined championship or not, but we felt that we’d be better positioned to evaluate them after actually trying it out.”
Going forward, the Management Council agreed with a previous request from the Championships Committee for the ice hockey community to think more about whether the sport’s playing and practice season will need adjusting if the combined championship approach gains momentum.
In that vein, a legislative proposal currently on the docket for the 2013 Convention that would move the first date of competition for ice hockey to Nov. 1 (from Oct. 15) will be withdrawn unless the Presidents Council does not support the combined championship for 2014.
Both the Council and the Championships Committee agree with that proposal’s intent (moving the contest date away from the first practice date as a student-athlete safety concern), but they want to delay that proposal in light of the more comprehensive review of the playing and practice season resulting from the combined championship.
In other action at the Division III Management Council’s Oct. 15-16 meeting in Indianapolis, members: