Changes coming to NCAA Championships?

Just saw this over at the TFN message boards. From managing editor Garry Hill:

Apparently there’s a plan in the works (one source telling me it could come to fruition as early as next year) to split the NCAA [outdoor championships] into “two meets” by sex.

Not the way you might guess, with either same weekend different sites or same site different weekends. More like “interleaved.”

As in, one sex would be Wednesday/Friday and the other Thursday/Saturday.

Interesting concept. Wonder what they’d do with the multis?

Apparently the impetus is coming from television. No matter whether it’s CBS or ESPN covering the action, the “story” they tell is the team competition, and with only one sex’s team score to follow it fits in better.

The practical implications are many…
*A proposed 32-athlete-per-event qualifying system that kills regionals wouldn’t be doable
*More finals in a single day makes doubling more difficult
*Less doubling makes the winning score lower and keeps more teams in the hunt
*Sprint-heavy teams would take the biggest hit (100/200/4×100 triple would be more or less impossible)
*A 10k-5k double is no more difficult than it already is (this year was pretty tough) so distance-heavy teams might make out better
*At least theoretically, a broad-based program would do better than one based around a few sprint stars

If you don’t have to be a sprint-heavy team to compete for the championship, that means Midwestern teams might have a better chance at winning. And I’ll just point out that the last time a Big Ten team won the men’s NCAA outdoor championship was in 1948.

LATE EDIT: I was given copies of the Draft potential schedule and the Champs Advisory Committee Report. Key quotes from the report:

The short-term task that the group has identified as priority one is to create a TV-friendly outdoor championships. This task is a direct result of losing our five hours of live television coverage for the championships in the new NCAA television contract with ESPN. The group feels there is a short window of opportunity to rectify this loss for the future….

It is important to point out here that the new contract signed by the NCAA gives ESPN the broadcast rights for the Outdoor Track & Field Championships for the next 13 years (this does not obligate them to air the event live on television – that decision is at ESPN’s discretion). The feedback that [USTFCCCA CEO] Sam [Seemes] has gotten is that television is looking for a clean, concise presentation, a clear story to tell with a start and a finish, and products that they can promote and sell…
(emphasis added)

In other words, maintaining and/or expanding live TV coverage is the reason this is happening. The people involved are very aware that if your sport isn’t on live TV, it might as well not exist. Adapt or die.

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One Response to Changes coming to NCAA Championships?

  1. Pete Schuder says:

    If this is followed up it would be one of the best things for track and field. Keeping the main portion of the meet under 3 hours per day is something that will appeal to all types of fans and to the athletes as well. Good competition between teams from all areas of the country will also make things more interesting. I hope coaches will see the benefit of this approach and embrace it with open arms.