Gary Brown,

The first Division III Men’s Volleyball Championship in 2012 is coming together, and it may already be different from what was announced when the NCAA’s 89th championship was adopted at last month’s Convention.

The Division III Championships Committee discussed the division’s inaugural men’s volleyball championship at its meeting last week and noted that the attraction of competing in an NCAA championship is prompting several schools to consider adding the sport. That could affect sponsorship numbers and, in turn, the size of the first championship.

Sponsorship at the time the championship was approved was enough to accommodate an eight-team field. But several schools already have declared their intent to add the sport since then, causing a bump in the bracket to nine teams. A final determination won’t be made until 2011-12 sponsorship numbers are available in August.

The bracket size could affect the dates of the tournament, as well. The original eight-team field at a single site was scheduled for April 19-21, 2012, but that could change. For example, if the field stays at nine, that could require a preliminary round with either four or eight teams advancing to the finals site. The preliminary date formula is to conduct the finals during the last full weekend in April.

Those adjustments will be the purview of the newly named Division III Men’s Volleyball Committee. The four-person panel appointed after the Convention includes:

• Louise McCleary, director of athletics at Elms College
• Charlie Sullivan, men’s volleyball coach at Springfield College
• Gary Williams, associate director of athletics for education services at Carthage College
• Jose Pina, men’s volleyball coach at New York University

That group will conduct its first in-person meeting April 13-16 at this year’s Molten Championship at Nazareth College, where the committee also will announce sites for the 2012 and 2013 NCAA championships.

While those are among the details that still need to be worked out, many other facets of the fledgling championship are known. For instance, institutions will have access to the championship in the same manner as any other Division III team championship – via Pools A (conferences that receive automatic qualification, B (independent institutions and conferences that do not receive an AQ) and C (all institutions not selected via Pools A or B).

The Championships Committee also agreed that the new championship warrants flexibility regarding the two-year waiting period for conferences to be eligible for an AQ. That means for the first two years of the championship, the committee will waive:

• The requirement that a conference exist for two years before receiving an AQ
• The two-year waiting period for established conferences that may not have satisfied the two-year competition and continuity requirements (that is, the same seven institutions playing volleyball together for two years).

Established conferences that either satisfy the existing AQ requirements or satisfy all of the AQ requirements except for the two-year waiting period should submit the AQ form online by May 1 to receive an AQ for the 2012 championship.

New single-sport conferences may also receive an AQ for the 2012 championship as long as they are approved by the Division III Membership Committee, which has extended its application deadline until Feb. 28. The application and instructions are online.

This same flexibility regarding the two-year waiting period would apply again for the 2013 championship. For example, if institutions were unable to submit an application for a single-sport conference by Feb. 28, 2011, they could submit a single-sport conference application next year and receive an AQ for the 2013 championship without completing the two-year waiting period. (The deadline for that application is Jan. 15, 2012.)

As for the playing and practice seasons, those parameters have been adjusted due to men’s volleyball changing from a National Collegiate championship sport to a Division III championship sport.

Thus, the dates of competition limits have been reduced from 28 to 22 in the traditional segment and from four to one in the nontraditional segment. The nontraditional segment consists of no more than 16 days of athletically related activity, including one date of competition, and is structured just like baseball, field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball and women’s volleyball. The contest exemptions are the same as in women’s volleyball.