It took almost 40 years, but expansion as arrived to the men’s volleyball Division I-II NCAA Tournament.
The NCAA sent a memo to coaches and conference commissioners Wednesday morning stating it will add another play-in match and increase the NCAA Tournament to six teams beginning in 2014.
The new postseason format, according to the memo obtained by Off the Block, would have the top two seeded teams receive byes to the NCAA semifinals, while the four other teams compete in two play-in matches. In addition, the NCAA in the memo stated the tournament seeding would be determined by the selection committee and not based on conference RPI.
This new policy nullifies the NCAA’s decision earlier this summer to have one play-in match with the two participating teams being determined by the previous year’s conference RPI rankings. The EIVA and Conference Carolinas champions were originally scheduled to play in the inaugural play-in match after finishing with the two lowest RPI rankings of the four automatic bid conferences.
Several prominent members of the college men’s volleyball committee had been outspoken against the previous format, including Penn State coach Mark Pavlik. MPSF commissioner Al Beaird also submitted a letter to the NCAA critiquing the conference RPI after the formula ranked the MIVA ahead of the MPSF.
The immediate need for NCAA Tournament expansion occurred with Conference Carolinas sponsoring men’s volleyball and becoming eligible for automatic bid to the tournament starting in 2014.
Before the upcoming season, the men’s volleyball NCAA Tournament had only included four teams — three conference champions from the EIVA, MIVA and MPSF and one at-large bid — since becoming an sanctioned sport in 1970.
The new tournament structure will increase the at-large bids in the field to two teams. At-large bids have historically benefited the MPSF with a West Coast school receiving every at-large bid to the tournament expect for 1994 when the selection committee chose IPFW.
At-large teams are also eligible receive either of top two seeds in the NCAA Tournament and a bye into the semifinals.
The dates for the two play-in matches have not been set. However, the NCAA in the memo stated they would take place between the regularly scheduled Selection Sunday and the semifinals on Thursday, May 1.
The selection committee will have the right to determine the location of each play-in match. The goal for the NCAA, according to the memo, is to have the higher seeded teams play host to their play-in match but recognized that may not be possible given geographical and travel challenges.
Along with these tournament changes, the NCAA reconfirmed its commitment to funding these play-in matches. The NCAA announced in September that it would change its play-in match policy and pay for the teams’ travel expenses.
The 2014 NCAA Tournament semifinals and finals are scheduled to take place May 1 and May 3 in Chicago with Loyola serving as the host school.