It’s a busy time for the men’s volleyball NCAA committee members with Selection Sunday fast approaching.
Off the Block conducted an interview earlier this week with Ron Shayka, one of the three members on the selection committee that will decide the NCAA Tournament field. Shayka along with a committee member is the EIVA President and an assistant athletics director at George Mason.
Check out the interview below to get an inside look at the selection process, the selection committee and the growth of the EIVA.
Off the Block: You are starting your second term as the Eastern Region representative on the selection committee. Can you take us through what this time of year is like for the committee as you get ready for Selection Sunday?
Ron Shayka: What we did is we generally have a preliminary discussion and it happens in early April. We just start talking about what is going on in our individual regions, who’s on top at the present time and who we would expect to make it to our regional finals. So we start talking about those teams and as much discussion we have about the teams, we also have discussions about some logistical issue because not only are teams selected but the officials too. That’s another piece of it.
OTB: Talking about your region, you’re involved with the EIVA. Can you talk a little bit about the different feel in the conference this year with Penn State being challenged and it not a seemingly foregone conclusion at this time of the year that the Nittany Lions will win the championship.
RS: No doubt at that. I played for Penn State and coached for Mason so I got a lot of ties to both places. This is one of the best things to happen for eastern volleyball overall to have a competitive field coming down towards the end of the season. There is legitimately a number of teams that could win the championship. In the long run I think it is going to make every one of us better.
OTB: Looking at your school in George Mason, the Patriots have had some good wins this season. Do you think that this is a team that could upset Penn State and make a run at the NCAA Tournament?
RS: We’ve been playing high level volleyball and competitive volleyball. We’re a senior laden team. We got nine seniors. There is a lot of senior leadership and a number of talented players who have pushed each other and there has been a lot of internal competition throughout the season. And I think that has made the team better. We finished second last year, and certainly our goal was to finish on top this year. But we know that there is a competitive field ahead of us.
OTB: Looking at the criteria for the at-large bid and tournament seeding, there are nine categories. Do you weigh any category more than others like head-to-head record and record versus qualified opponents or do you keep all the categories equally?
RS: Because there are so many different elements there ends up being a grid of sorts, and we end up looking at all the things. And usually with that many pieces to look at it sorts itself out kind of numerically or objectively. I don’t know if there is any one thing in particular other than if it’s close you just look at that head-to-head and say, “boy, how did they do when they played on such and such days or multiple dates.” And that ends up being a determining factor most of the time.
OTB: From your background, you played at Penn State and coached at George Mason. How nice is it from just a different perspective to have someone on the selection committee who has that background of playing and coaching collegiate volleyball?
RS: That’s been one topic of discussion as far as trying to have someone on the committee who is truly quote a volleyball person. I think that is one of the reasons I had a second term is because I played and I coached. We have had tremendous contributions from the different administrators and athletics directors that have been on the committee. It sure does help when you have someone on the committee who played and coached to be able to talk about the nuances. And I’ve found that all the administrators that I’ve worked with over the years have been so supportive of the men’s game that we’ve been fortunately. I think that’s partly because these folks who seek to be on the committee are looking to advance the men’s game. We need advocates now more than ever, and to get different administrators involved only helps the men’s game. I provide maybe the technically background, but these administrators and their knowledge of NCAA regulations and such that’s been a real bonus.