NCAA Division III administrators are keeping a close eye on possible changes at the Division I level, but its biggest problem may come from within.
Wartburg associate athletic director Monica Severson, a member of the Division III championships committee, says D-III has gone over its championships travel budget.
“It’s pretty scary,” Severson said. “We’ve really had to do some things to try to make sure we’re within our budget.”
Just over 3 percent of the NCAA’s budget is for Division III. A possible split of the Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) from the NCAA could cost the organization the money it needs to run D-III.
Seismic changes like that aren’t likely and would still be a few years and court dates from happening.
Division III’s championships budget, however, is a problem that’s not going away.
Iowa Conference Commissioner Chuck Yrigoyen has been associated with D-III for six years. It’s the first time since he’s been associated with the division that it’s faced budget problems.
“If they’re crying money, then it’s real,” Yrigoyen said. “They’ve already told us there’s gonna have to be some changes.”
Per diems frozen
A small change has already been implemented.
Participating teams and individuals traveling to championship events were allotted $95 per day in 2013-14. That per diem was set to increase $5 to $100 in 2014-15, but was frozen.
The NCAA says the freeze will save the division more than $1 million annually, allowing for short term relief.
“We’ve really had to do some things to try to make sure we’re within our budget,” Severson said. “We have a reserve fund, but we can’t continue to be over budget in championships the way we’ve been the last couple of years. We’ve really had to have some serious discussions.”
Selection committees pressured by budget
Division III coaches, players and fans can be frustrated with the way the division must set up its postseason tournaments.
Unlike Division I, notably the men’s basketball tournament, when geography takes a backseat to pure seeding, D-III selection committees must keep geography at the forefront.
Only 6.6 percent of Division III institutions are located in the Mountain or Pacific time zones.
Because of the division’s lack of schools west of the Missouri River, teams on the Pacific coast are often forced to play tougher first-round opponents in order to keep travel costs down.
“There’s certainly times in whatever sport where you might look at it and think that that was maybe more of a factor than what you’d like it to be,” Wartburg athletic director and head football coach Rick Willis said.
“At the same time, I think, usually, the people in those positions have still been able to come up with fair, reasonable solutions while keeping budgetary concerns in mind.”
One of the most recent examples came in the 2013 football playoffs, when No. 13 Pacific Lutheran had to face No. 2 Linfield on the road in the first round instead of drawing a home game against a Midwest school.
“The sport committees are under more pressure than ever to make sure that they’re not sending people all over God’s creation,” Yrigoyen said.
According to the NCAA, the championships committee will discuss possible changes including access ratios to determine bracket sizes, travel party limits, the time between selection and booking travel among other possible changes throughout the year.
“For them to be talking the way they have in our last couple meetings, it’s for real,” Yrigoyen said. “It’s gonna mean some adjustments and I don’t think they know yet what those adjustments are.”