Wednesday, October 6, 2010

College Redraw: What Went Wrong

I have one complaint about the redraw, but it's a big one: it doesn't do anything to bolster competitive ultimate for the top teams. In a lot of cases, it makes the situation worse by diluting already thin regions into multiple regions. (It's a bit like a Florida congressional district: only the incumbent can win.) More than that, this redraw was an opportunity to push the sport forward and to change the way the season is structured to make it more exciting and meaningful. It fails utterly in this, instead reworking everything just to maintain the status quo of Sectionals-Regionals-Nationals.

What to do to fix it?
1. Go to 24 teams. There needs to be some flexibility and twenty four teams creates that room to maneuver. One size fits all doesn't work for an ultimate community that contains the dense northeast open divisions and the sparse but talented women's west.
2. Qualify for Nationals from Conference play. Keep all Regionals as one bid. Allocate all strength bids by conference and let conference play and finish decide who is going to Nationals. Instead of a single, elimination style conference tournament teams could play a round-robin or double round robin series to determine conference finish much like college basketball. Geographically large conferences would need to do tournaments, but small ones could do classic home-and-away match-ups and play one game at a time.
3. Let teams form their own conferences. Once strength bids go to conferences, you free teams from their regional boundaries and they can make conferences that work for them disregarding regional boundaries. CUT-Madison could happen. PAC-10 women could happen.
4. Run two conferences as a trial balloon. On the open side, run a conference that is CUT-Madison-Iowa-Minnesota and two to four more teams. On the women's side, run a west coast conference that runs from San Diego to Vancouver.

Here are the problems
1. It makes things messier and decentralized for USAU. Get over it.
2. The math gets weirder, particularly if you run trial conferences first. Patching two systems together makes the strength allocations a bit odd, but in the end it's just a math problem and solvable.
3. Teams get left out. Using the NW as an example, if the three dominant programs (Oregon, Washington and UBC) join another conference what will happen to OSU and Western and Victoria? I'm not sure, but is being in their own conference necessarily worse than being in a conference with the big three? It certainly is if, like Western the past three years, you are trying to step up to the big time. If, like OSU, you are just trying to establish a program with some continuity, it might be a good thing.

My fear is that USAU is too busy cleaning up and consolidating (necessary work) to risk a big bold change, but why not give it a try?

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