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How the decision gets made

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The NCAA has published a series of guidelines and Q&As for COVID-19. Each division has their own document which can be found on the NCAA’s COVID-19 website. There is a section on that page entitled Division IIII COVID-19 Resources that has a lot of information about NCAA actions since March of 2020. One document there is the 2020-21 Division III COVID-19 Question and Answer Guide. That document provides information on various sections of the NCAA Division III bylaws and how those rules might be temporarily altered due to the pandemic.

Of particular interest is the section beginning on page 26: BYLAW 18 – CHAMPIONSHIPS. Questions 1 and 4 are pertinent to the wrestling season.

Question No. 1: What is the minimum sponsorship threshold to merit conducting winter and spring championships?
Answer: The Division III Championships Committee affirmed its position that for sports with 50 or fewer sponsoring institutions 90 percent of sponsoring member institutions must sponsor the sport to merit a championship. For sports with sponsorship between 51 and 200 institutions, 70 percent; and sports with 201 or more sponsoring institutions, 60 percent. Note that in order for any championship to be cancelled it would still require being moved through the governance process.

Question No. 4: What are the minimum contest requirements for winter championships consideration?
Answer: Contests minimums to be eligible for consideration to winter
championships have been reduced by 50 percent and are as follows:

  • Basketball: 9
  • Ice hockey: 9
  • Swimming and diving: 4
  • Indoor track and field: 2
  • Wrestling: 3

Any sport with 51-200 teams will need 70% of teams competing to have an NCAA postseason. There are about 113 DIII wrestling teams, and 70% of 113 is about 79. If more than 34 teams drop out, that would take wrestling below the 70% threshold. However, that is not an automatic decision. The last sentence of the answer provides that the decision has to move through the governance process.

Who counts as participating in wrestling? Refer to Question 4. In most seasons, a team has to compete six times to count as a sponsored sport for a school and to be eligible for the postseason. For 2021, that number has been halved to three. Presumably, for a school to count as part of the 70%, it will need to compete in at least three events.

It does not look great for wrestling right now. If 32 teams are indeed out, and a few more are almost certainly headed that way, wrestling will fall below the 70% needed for a championship. Wrestling will not be the only sport affected. Basketball seems to be already well below the 60% needed for their tournament to take place, according calculations from d3hoops.com.

A few questions remain to be answered as the NCAA surveys its membership and prepares to make a call on championships.

  1. What is the latest date the NCAA will make a decision on the championships?
  2. If the tournament is scheduled, but more teams drop out after it is announced as on, will it still take place?
  3. Do teams have to wrestle three event before a certain date, or is it good enough to have them scheduled? What if COVID-19 causes a team to cancel a scheduled match and that drops them under three events? Will they lose access to the championships?