A 2016 women’s basketball joint championship involving all three divisions has moved one step closer to becoming a reality.

The Division III Championships Committee convened in Indianapolis on Feb. 10-11 and recommended a $200,000 budget to cover Division III’s portion of the event as well as a revised format for the championship’s final rounds.

The Division III Management Council will have to approve the Championships Committee’s recommendations in the spring before the plans for the 2016 championship are made official. If the Management Council approves the recommendations, the early rounds of the championship will mirror the current format; the semifinals will be played at a predetermined site in late March; and the final will take place April 4 in Indianapolis -- a Monday. The Division II final will take place on the same day and the Division I championship game will take place the following night. All the games will take place at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Division III format tweak -- the semifinals and final are traditionally played at the same site -- means the championship will cost more than usual because of additional travel and operations expenses.

All three divisions held a joint men’s basketball championship in Atlanta in 2013, so members want to offer an equal opportunity for women’s basketball, a commitment made by the governance structure at that time.

“We wanted to provide a similar experience for our female student-athletes in basketball as we did for our men,” said Monica Severson, Championships Committee chair and Wartburg College associate director of athletics and senior woman administrator. “And we wanted to keep the format of having both semifinal games in the same location at a predetermined site. If we did away with that, then you are really going to diminish the experience of the non-advancing teams.”

Women’s lacrosse bracket

The committee recommended expanding the women’s lacrosse bracket from 38 teams to 40, effective with the 2016 championship. According to Division III rules, one of every 6.5 teams that sponsor a given sport must have access to the championship. Given the rapid expansion of women’s lacrosse, two more spots in the championship were mandated by that access ratio. The expansion comes with an estimated $17,700 price tag, which the committee weighed carefully given its work over the last year to make significant cuts to championships spending in order to balance the division’s budget. Ultimately, the committee felt the additional cost was appropriate.

“Obviously, we’re not out of the woods in terms of the budget, but we know that some of what we have done recently has helped us,” Severson said. “That made it easier for us to agree to expand this bracket.” 

Future budget considerations

While the committee made no recommendations that will have a significant impact on the championships budget, it did broach several budget-centric topics that it will explore further in the coming months:

•Bracket expansion in several sports will continue to be inevitable as sport sponsorship levels grow if championship access ratios remain the same.
•Per diems for institutions hosting championships were eliminated as part of the budget cuts made last year. However, the committee discussed the possibility of reinstating the per diem for schools hosting events when school is not in session and students don’t have access to the usual campus amenities.
•Last year, the per diem for all championship competitors was rolled back to $90. The committee will continue to monitor whether that figure will remain viable over the next several years as lodging costs continue to rise.
•The committee also discussed potential changes to its charter travel policy. NCAA travel staff has reviewed a model that includes a fixed ticket cost for athletes, parents or staff who would like to travel on the charter but would cause a team to exceed its reimbursable travel party size. The committee will discuss this issue further in the coming months, and a pilot program for football could be implemented in the fall.