I wrote a preview for USA Ultimate which you can read here. There were a couple of things I wanted to comment on that didn't make it into the article.
I hadn't yet talked to Whitman when I wrote the article for USAU, but I had been curious about their decision to not attend D-III Regionals and Nationals. Here's what their captain, Kelley Hall said:
"There wasn't a DIII regionals this year with the restructuring otherwise our decision may have been different. Unfortunately DIII Nationals is very far away and very expensive, and just wasn't feasible for our team. In addition, we collectively decided that we wanted to take on the challenge of playing some of the best teams in the nations just to test ourselves and grow from the experience."
I really like the idea of D-III. I think it will take off in 4-5 years, but right now it doesn't seem to be hitting on all cylinders yet. There is a level of commitment that teams have to cross to be a nationally traveling team and most D-III teams aren't there yet. It costs a lot of money to run a season that features a 5-7 tournaments. This commitment has to be fed occasionally by a return on investment i.e. a trip to Nationals. Most D-III teams (outside of Carleton and the New England) haven't in a position to compete for D-I Nationals and so they have never built up the financial commitment for a big-time season. As D-III teams experience success at the D-III level, we should see a slow increase in stability and participation.
The other team that didn't make the preview (because they declined their bid) was Utah. I had a long conversation with their captain, Cricket, who had organized enough women to drive the 16 hours (!!!) for a one day, 4-game Conference tournament. Had they accepted their bid to Regionals they would have needed to fly or to drive 21 hours to Burlington. Put Regionals in Vancouver (which will happen) and that's a 23 hour drive and a border crossing. Ugh.
The restructuring process was very good at managing and anticipating growth in the east, where there are a lot of teams and look to be a lot more. It did a much poorer job of managing the size issues in the west (which isn't getting any smaller.) In a lot of ways, our region only works because there aren't really any teams in the Big Sky. Should they ever get enough momentum, then we suddenly will have a pretty big (sky) problem. The men are already dealing with this; Utah is sending a team to Regionals. The South Central's version of this problem blew up on rsd a few weeks ago as Texas A&M was greatly indignant about the addition of Colorado to their region. (I can't find the link, sorry.)
Within these regions, it is very difficult to have growth when a new team is looking at a 16 hour drive to play. It just won't happen. They'll get a little momentum and then - poof! it's gone.
Here's a simple solution:
1. Two new regions: Big Sky North (MT, ID, WY, AB, SA) and Four Corners (NM, AZ, CO, UT)
2. Twenty-four team Nationals
You fix the geographic problems in the Northwest and South Central. You provide the extra bids to cushion the expansion. And three extra bids to further cushion the inaccuracy of results that will occur from time to time. (CO is going to send a team 90% of years anyway.)