Copyright, 2013 Register and Tribune Company
The NCAA wrestling committee is proposing groundbreaking change to its championship format, the Des Moines Register has learned.
A model presented Tuesday to the NCAA’s Division-I sports management cabinet, if approved, would fuse the individual tournament and dual-meet tournament into a single national title event.
Anthony Holman, NCAA associate director of championships and alliances, presented the revised model that would enable teams to accumulate points through a 24-team dual tournament that they could carry into the individual NCAA Championships.
“We want to make dual meets matter. And for them to matter early in the year there has to be a carrot and there has to be a component,” Holman told the Register in a telephone interview Wednesday night. “We want to create our own excitement about the dual-team portion of it, kind of like March Madness.”
The general concept would leave teams competing throughout the season for spots in six-team regional tournaments on the campuses of the top four seeds. The field would be comprised of dual champions from automatic-qualifying conferences and filled out with at-large teams selected by criteria similar to those used by the NCAA for its basketball and baseball postseason tournaments.
Under the proposal, the further a squad advances in the two-weekend dual tournament, the more points it would bank toward its team scoring total for the individual tournament.
Holman said details such as the point structure and schedule still needed to be ironed out, but the concept would likely move conference individual qualifying tournaments like the Big Ten and Big 12 Championships ahead of the postseason dual tournaments on the calendar.
The proposal was presented to the championship cabinet as an informational item, which means it still has multiple hurdles to clear before it could become part of college wrestling’s postseason landscape as early as 2016.
“Either (cabinet members will) like it and we’ll keep vetting it and present it at the (National Wrestling Coaches Association) convention in August or they may say this doesn’t make any sense, it’s never going to work in which case the committee and staff will go back to the drawing board or put it back in the bottom desk drawer,” Holman said.
Last summer, the NCAA wrestling committee worked on a proposal that would have eliminated team scoring from its individual championships and turned a dual tournament into its national title event. It was met with a mixture of strong support and fierce opposition. Proponents argued that the opportunity to put a second NCAA-sponsored championship event on ESPN was a worthwhile gamble for the sport that has seen its number of programs drop from 146 to 77 at the Division-I level in the last 30 years.
Other coaches, however, contended that removing the team scoring element from the individual tournament and perhaps damaging the sport’s biggest showcase event was a risky proposition. The dissent amongst coaches prevented the proposal from gaining traction. It was ultimately tabled by the NCAA cabinet in September and sent back to the NCAA wrestling committee for further evaluation.
“We’re just leery of anything that might jeopardize that individual tournament and what it’s stood for,” Iowa State coach Kevin Jackson said.
Jackson said he’s curious to hear more details about the revised plan and hopeful the NCAA wrestling committee would provide coaches with “an honest and fair chance to really look at it.”
Northern Iowa coach Doug Schwab said “the concept could be good” – as long as the season-ending individual tournament wasn’t tainted.
“If it’s set up the right way and done the right way I think it could make things pretty interesting for college wrestling and make dual meets more important,” he said. “There’s a lot of details that have to get sewed up, and for me, as a coach, I’m asking all kinds of questions. … I don’t think it takes away at all from our crown jewel.”