As reported by Trackwrestling’s Andy Hamilton, a Blue Ribbon Task Force made up of NCAA Division I administrators and coaches has developed a proposal for a new season schedule for NCAA Division I Wrestling. The basic outline of the proposal is as follows:
- November 10th is the first day of practice
- Competition begins after fall semester exams
- Tournaments and dual meet competition leading to a March NCAA Individual Championship
- Dual meets only after the individual championship leading toward a 16 team dual meet championship contested over two weekends in late April
- Two NCAA Division I Championships in wrestling, one for a tournament champion, and one for a dual meet champion
There are approximately 240 NCAA wrestling teams. Two thirds of them (and a greater fraction in the coming years) are not set to be affected by this proposed change. In addressing this, the facilitator of the task force, National Wrestling Coaches Association Deputy Director Jim Falls said, “For Division II and Division III, if keeping the season where it is now is best for them, they can do that. And they should do that.”
It is hard to predict how enacting a change like this in Division I would affect Division III wrestling. There is a possibility that Divisions II and III would be further marginalized because their schedules do not match up with the higher profile Division I schedule. Alternatively, if DII and DIII adopt the change as well, it would probably result in both a shortened season and increased expenses for DIII as teams now have to house and feed athletes for a longer part of the winter break. The season would be shortened because there is no way the NCAA will foot the bill for a DIII dual meet championship after the championship tournament.
Changing the schedule for Division III has a much greater effect than it does for Division I. In Division III, the official start date for practice is actually meaningful, as that is the first day that coaches can be on the mat with the wrestlers. In Division I, relaxed rules along with the proliferation of wrestling clubs and regional training centers has resulted in a system where teams can literally practice twelve months a year if they want to. Here’s a video of an Ohio State practice from earlier this week, about two weeks before the “start date” for practice. If you can train as a team whenever you want, shifting the season around does not make much of a difference. However, in Division III, these dates have teeth, so changing the DI season could end up leaving the other divisions behind or bringing them along into a system that is not an improvement.