NESCAC at-large bids face scrutiny
With a number of new presidents in their ranks, including
Bowdoin's Barry Mills, and postseason play set to change, the presidents
of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) met on September
20 to determine the future extent of NESCAC participation in NCAA championships.
The major issue discussed was the imminent termination of
at-large tournament bids starting with the 2001-2002 season. An at-large
bid allows a NESCAC team to accept an invitation to NCAA championship
play without actually winning the NESCAC Championship.
Prior to the emergence of at-large bid invitations in 1994,
sports teams were not eligible to compete in NCAA national tournaments.
The process has continued to change over the years.
As Ashmead White Director of Athletics Jeff Ward explained,
"Until two years ago, all NESCAC selections were at-large bids. The
NCAA changed the process to automatic qualifiers. Essentially, the bulk
of the pool was determined by conference winners with a small group of
at-large bids picked throughout the country."
Last year, the Bowdoin Women's Soccer team advanced to NCAA
championship play thanks to an at-large bid from the selection committee,
which is composed of coaches and administrators throughout the country.
Due to the disappearance of the ECAC tournament this year
and the dwindling number of teams allowed to participate in postseason
championships, President Mills proposed a plan that gave the at-large
bids a one-year extension. Approved by other NESCAC presidents on September
20, Mill's proposal guarantees at least one more year of bids.
During this trial year, the presidents will assess the importance,
or lack thereof, of at-large bids.
Said Mills, "There are some presidents who believe
that NCAA sports playoffs are inconsistent with the goals of the NESCAC.
Others believe that is perfectly appropriate."
Ward supported the decision to treat this year as a trial
year for at-large bids. Said Ward, "There are a number of new presidents
in the NESCAC, and they want to take a thorough look at athletics and
take time to study the issues."
However, some presidents believe that NESCAC teams should
not be able to compete in NCAA championship play-with or without at large
"The bottom line is the question of appropriateness
of NCAA championships for NESCAC schools," said Mills.