The SIAC is officially set to make its NCAA Tournament debut.
The NCAA Division Competition Oversight Committee at its recent meeting approved the SIAC receiving an automatic bid to the Division I-II men’s volleyball NCAA Tournament starting in 2024.
The automatic bid was awarded to the SIAC, despite the Division II conference not meeting the two-year eligibility waiting period.
The committee opted to provide the SIAC a waiver because of the conference’s commitment to expansion after losing one of its original men’s volleyball programs. It also recognized the SIAC’s efforts at “fostering growth and diversity in a region that has had little representation” in NCAA men’s volleyball, according to the committee’s meeting minutes.
The SIAC added a school for the upcoming season to expand seven historically black colleges and universities throughout the South, Southeast and Midwest. The conference the last two seasons had a provisional NCAA Division II member among teams in an effort to meet requirement during the waiting period of having six NCAA teams in the conference.
The 2024 season will be the SIAC’s third season. Central State won the inaugural conference championship in 2022, and Edward Waters went undefeated in conference play to win the SIAC title last season.
The SIAC becomes the sixth conference to receive an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament and joins the ConfCarolinas as the only Division II conferences with a berth.
The addition of the SIAC will expand the NCAA Tournament field from seven teams to at least eight schools. Six of those teams in the tournament field will be conference automatic qualifiers.
The finalized tournament field size and format, though, remains unresolved for the upcoming season.
The Competition Oversight Committee at the recent meeting requested to expand the NCAA Tournament to 12 teams. However, the committee will revisit this recommendation following a budget review and analysis.
If the NCAA Tournament expands to 12 teams, the field currently is not slated to include the NEC as an automatic bid next season.
The committee opted to not recommend the NEC’s waiver request to bypass the two-year waiting period for new conferences before being eligible for an automatic bid.
The NEC following its inaugural season advocated its circumstances and efforts to comply with NCAA automatic bid requirement warranted waiver consideration. The committee opted against that recommendation citing no extraordinary circumstances that merit the waiver.
The NEC is slate to be eligible for an NCAA Tournament automatic bid starting in 2025.
The increase to at least an eight-team field is the third time in the last 10 years the NCAA Tournament expanded.
The NCAA Tournament since its inception in 1970 had been four teams before expanding to six teams in 2014 with the addition of the ConfCarolinas. The field also increased to seven teams in 2017 to coincide with the start of the Big West adding men’s volleyball.