Q&A with Ron Wellman
Chair of DI men's basketball championship committee
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone, from Indianapolis. Thanks very much for taking the time and interest to join us as we roll out some changes to the Division I men's basketball championship bracketing principles. I know that you all have the copy of the press release that Dave Worlock sent out, are probably anxious to ask some questions. We're very pleased and honored to have the current chair of the Division I men's basketball championship committee Ron Wellman, athletic director at Wake Forest University here to give some comments and answer questions for you. Thanks for being with us, Ron. It's all yours ...
RON WELLMAN: Thank you, everyone, for joining the conference call this afternoon. I will not spend much time reiterating and repeating everything that is in the release. Let me just add a couple of things that I think are of importance.
Since I've been on the committee the last four years, this is my fifth year, the one discomfort the committee had practically annually was the seeds and honoring the true seed list that the committee put together and then having to move teams from as little as one line to as much as two lines because of the brackets and principles that we needed to follow.
We believe that the changes that have been made by the committee this summer speaks to that issue, and that in the future we will not have to move the seeds, the teams, from one seed line to another nearly as often as we have in the past.
In fact, the NCAA staff looked at the last three years of brackets and we have determined or they have determined that 90 percent of the seed line moves that occurred in the last three years would have been eliminated if the new principles were in effect over the last three years.
So we do believe that the seed lines are going to be honored to a greater extent, much greater extent, than they have been in the past, and the coaches and other groups have overwhelmingly supported the concept of honoring seed lines as a priority going forward.
The committee, in fact, met with the NABC Board of Directors this summer, and the one thought that came out of that committee that was extremely important to the basketball committee was honoring the seeds, trying to keep the seeds in the same order as they were originally. With that thought the committee moved forward with the new brackets principles.
With that, I will open it up for questions.
Q. Ron, from the outside one of the issues that appeared to affect protecting the true seeds in the bracketing process is geography. I wondered if you think that this is going to help address some of those issues as well since you don't have to move teams around as much. Perhaps you would avoid overstacking regions as has happened occasionally in the past.
WELLMAN: Well, we are hoping that that will be the case. Geography is important, especially as it relates to fan travel. That is one of the considerations that the committee always looks at. In fact, as we are placing teams in brackets and pods and regions, we look at the mileage that the team and its fans would have to travel to that particular site.
So geography is important, and we do believe that these new principles will play out nicely in terms of geography and the travel distance that our teams and fans are going to have to make.
Q. If you would, take an educated guess at how many times in the last three or five years the committee has had to move a team two seed lines.
WELLMAN: We do have that information. Do you have that at your fingertips?
MODERATOR: I do. In the last three years, it only happened once. It was with BYU. They dropped from what would have been naturally a 12 line based on the overall seed line, they dropped to 14. The other incident was a little further ago, it involved Marquette going from an 8 to a 6.
Q. Ron, I wanted to get a sense, how much of a struggle was this in the last couple years on Sunday debating having to move teams off the seed line when there was concern about altering their true seed?
WELLMAN: It was a real struggle because we feel the seed lines are really important to the competitiveness of the tournament. The committee spends hours scrubbing the seeds. We'll take a stab at the seeds, then we go back and scrub every seed. We compare No. 1 to No. 2, No. 2 to No. 3, so on right through No. 68.
At the end of the day, we feel that the seeds are in proper order. An awful lot of work has been done to put those teams in that particular seed and seed line. Then we go to bracketing, and oftentimes we move a team either within the line or, as Dave just alluded to, we have moved a team two lines a couple of years ago, and a number of teams one line.
So there was great discomfort with that which obviously led to the discussion with the NABC board and our event actual change with the bracketing.
You're right, there was a great deal of discomfort with what we were doing regarding seeding the last few years.
Q. So last year, Oregon, they end up as a 12. If you can think back to that discussion, was it audible to where those in the room were sort of almost lamenting the fact we had Oregon slotted at X point, now we have to move them here? Was this a source of real frustration in a specific case like that, being locked into these brackets where you had to move a team that you knew should have been seeded higher?
WELLMAN: Yes, that was one case. It wasn't the only case over the last few years. But I well recall. I can't give you the amount of time we discussed Oregon and moving them to a different seed line, but I can assure you that it was a lengthy, lengthy discussion.
The debate was considerable as to what we should do and what was best for not only Oregon but the tournament, and of course the teams that were going to be playing Oregon.
When you move a team off of its seed line, you're not only affecting that team, but you are affecting the team that it plays and the teams that it might eventually play. So it has a tremendous impact when we move teams off of seed lines.
Q. Very often we've been told that teams are moved up and down seed lines strictly for geographic regions, to get somebody to play closer to home. Is that kind of practice still going to occur?
WELLMAN: Well, geography, as I alluded to before, is important. But I do not envision in the future that seeds would be sacrificed for geography.
You know, the pod system helps that quite a bit in that we can play teams closer to home with the pod system. With these new principles, we think they will play out nicely in terms of assigning teams to a closer geographical area, as well.
Q. Were there any issues that were brought up and discussed that ultimately did not end up going into practice? In terms of the bracketing process on Sunday, I know it's somewhat of a squeeze, was there discussion about concern over basically not allotting enough time when you get into situations like Oregon with the 12 where you thought you should dedicate a little more time to bracketing as opposed to just the true seed line?
WELLMAN: Yes, there was an awful lot of discussion about the timing of everything. We had developed a timeline for when we want to be at certain points in not only the selection but the seeding and the bracketing. We did a good job this year of meeting those time guidelines.
However, in the past, there have been times when the committee chair is walking out of the committee room at 5:55 with the last decision having been made just a minute or two prior to that and going to the selection show.
That's obviously a bit rushed. You're making decisions at the end that are difficult to make. So we definitely will have timelines established for when we want to be at certain points not only in the selection but also the seeding and the bracketing.
Q. Can you share with us what those timeline points are? For example, do you want to start bracketing by noon on Sunday morning, 10 a.m.? Do you have those details?
WELLMAN: Well, not at this point. We will be working on those over the next few months.
But as you probably know, we start seeding very early. We can start seeding after the first draw or selection of teams because typically we will get 17 to 22 teams selected in the first round or the first vote. We theoretically could start seeding those teams at that point.
Typically we do not start that early. But the second day, or late in the second day, we have started seeding.
Bracketing, in the past we have waited till Sunday most of the years I've been on the committee. But I believe last year we began bracketing on Saturday evening because we had enough information that we could start that process anyway and feel comfortable that we weren't going to have to make an inordinate number of changes with that bracketing process.
The staff does a great job of keeping all of those timelines, the historical timelines. We will look at all of those and decide going into this year what a legitimate and realistic timeline would be for the selection process as well as the seeding and bracketing.
Q. About the timeline, were there any considerations to either more radical solutions to create time for the committee, like pushing back the selection show to later Sunday night, or eliminating Sunday afternoon conference tournament finals to give the committee more of a window?
WELLMAN: Well, we talk about the games that are being played on Sundays, and we do not have any authority to change those tournament games, obviously. There's very little we can do about that.
The committee did discuss, should there be some limit as to when we can consider any additional information, or when should games need to be completed for the committee to include that particular game. We did not establish any hard and fast deadline for those games. But what we have been able to do is create a number of different brackets and seeding charts, if you will, based upon the Sunday games and the results of those Sunday games.
I am told, before I got on the committee, that one year there were five or six different brackets being considered going into late Sunday afternoon just because of the uncertainty of what was going to occur Sunday afternoon.
Obviously if there are highly seeded teams playing those games on Sunday afternoon, that does not present the difficulty that it does if you have a team that, for instance, if they lose, may not be in the tournament, but if they win, they have the AQ. That would really create a challenge for the committee, and that's why the various brackets are developed as early as possible.
Q. Just to make sure I'm grasping the new bracket guidelines correctly, two years ago NC State was an 11 in the Midwest, and Florida State was a 3 in the East. Under the new bracketing guidelines, conceivably they could have been in the same region and met in the round of 32, is that correct?
WELLMAN: That is correct. We correct the teams from the same conference on the first four lines. But then, after that, teams from the same conference could meet, as the release indicates, depending upon how many times they play.
It's not only regular season, those guidelines, but also the conference tournaments, as well. I think you're right, that NC State and Florida State only played once during the regular season and the tournament. They did not play in the tournament.
Q. With the rushed timeline that you described, I know the ACC has discussed the possibility of moving its conference championship game to Saturday night. Given your committee experience, have you encouraged your conference colleagues to strongly consider that?
WELLMAN: I have not, no. We have discussed whether it would be feasible and advisable to move that championship game to Saturday night. No decision has been made obviously at this point.
We did talk briefly about the NCAA basketball committee deliberations, but that was not a priority in that particular discussion as to whether we should move the game to Saturday night or not.
Q. With the pod system, if you had a team that was seeded 6, the nearest pod wasn't constructed to have a 6 in it, does that mean it would move further away, or could you still consider moving it to a 5 or 7 to save it geographically?
WELLMAN: I don't think the committee would be inclined to move it to a 5 or a 7, move it off the current line, to accommodate a team geographically. They may move the team within the line to accommodate maybe that team and another team geographically. But moving it off the line going forward for a geographical accommodation I think would be a real longshot.
Q. When you say if the team meets once, twice, three times a year, does that count in the conference tournaments? You could have teams that meet only once, then they meet on Sunday and you have to put them in a different category for that.
WELLMAN: Exactly. That would be a challenge. But the conference tournaments are included in that principle. If the team meets once during the regular season, then meets on Sunday in the championship game, that is their second contest against one another, and that game would be included in the committee's considerations and deliberations.
Q. It seems that a lot of these rules are in effect of conference expansion. There are so many teams that meet during regular season that can meet again. Do you believe that these adjustments could protect against future conference expansion or they would have to be revisited if conferences jump to more 16 team conferences or something like that?
WELLMAN: That is not the intent of the committee. The committee does not try to sway conferences to expand or not to expand. The committee is solely interested on producing the very best NCAA basketball tournament that we can. It is out of our line of authority and jurisdiction to try to influence what conferences are doing in terms of realignment and membership.
THE MODERATOR: To finish the point, it was Marquette in 2007 went from what would have been a 6 seed based on the overall seed list, they ended up as an 8 seed in the tournament.
Other than that, we would like to thank Ron Wellman for his time today, and thank the media for their interest.