Basketball postseason format determined

The National Administrative Council (NAC) finalized approval of a men’s and women’s basketball postseason tournament format which will include 64 qualifiers, 16 four-team opening rounds and a 16-team final site tournament.
The decision comes after the Council of Presidents’ (COP) approval in April 2018 to move to a single division in both men’s and women’s basketball, effective for the 2020-2021 academic year. The COP also charged the NAC with development and approval of the tournament format.
The final format comes after the Divisions in Basketball Task Force nearly two-year review and recommendation for a single basketball division with potential formats. The NAC Championship sub-committee reviewed all information and data presented the recommended format which was approved by the full NAC body.
The rationale behind the NAC’s decision was that a 64-qualifier/16-team final site tournament will offer a superior student-athlete experience, as well as provides the best opportunity for cost savings and team travel reimbursement. The format also retains the same amount of national qualifiers as it did for the current two-division format.
“This is a watershed moment for our organization,” NAC Chair Robert Cashell said in a press release. “The membership owes a thank you to the original task force that came forward with recommendations and the NAC Championships Subcommittee for their deliberate and thoughtful approach to this change. I believe the format will provide a special student-athlete experience and continue the NAIA’s tradition of offering unique championship opportunities for both men’s and women’s basketball.”
Central Methodist head men’s basketball coach Jeff Sherman said in a statement that he thinks this decision won’t enhance the National Tournament experience, saying that you can’t have that “national tournament” experience unless you have the whole tournament at one site.
The NAIA National Tournament for both men’s and women’s basketball is currently set up as a 32-team team tournament for both Division I and Division II. The full tournament for each division in both men’s and women’s basketball is played at one venue.
“Expanding to 64 teams sounds nice on paper, but it is basically what we already have in the two divisions,” Sherman said. “I think going one division was going to happen regardless since the NAIA is losing too many universities and with this decision could very well lose a few more that choose to stay NAIA vs. pursuing the NCAA route. Obviously, there are many other obstacles I believe are both good and bad with this decision, but the NAIA is failing to listen to the ones that happen to know the sport the best and that are the basketball coaches.”
With the way the current 32-team national tournament is set, teams have to win five games over a six-day period to win the NAIA national title. Sherman said changing the format takes away what makes the NAIA special and unique, and is now trying to resemble the NCAA with some of its postseason format.
“The only problem with this is we don’t have the money associated with the NCAA to make these “play in” sites seem like a national tournament,” Sherman said. “I think it is just another game until one can make the final destination which will only consist of 16 teams and take away that “brand” that has been associated with NAIA basketball for generations for the fans, players, coaches, universities, etc. In my opinion, it is a sad day for the NAIA to go this direction and I hope not a sign for other decisions to be made in the future which could result in the strength of the NAIA. Basketball has been the foundation sport and the men’s tournament has been what the NAIA has been riding on for generations.
Sherman said this doesn’t mean that basketball is “doomed,” in the NAIA. Too many talented teams and coaches will continue the legacy of NAIA basketball, he said.
“Ultimately, the fans and families will suffer from being taken away from enjoying this legacy that has separated the NAIA from NCAA and other associations,” Sherman said.
Sherman said he has a bigger issue with the new scholarship limit once the new division takes effect. The new scholarship limit will be eight. The limit for Division I currently is 11, while the limit for Division II is six.
“So, it seems to be fair,” Sherman said. “However, there will be a lot of students that will be left out of scholarship opportunities and will seek attending other universities.”
Sherman said he doesn’t think this will lower the reputation and tradition of NAIA basketball.
“NAIA basketball is very good right now with some of the finest athletes and coaches in the country,” Sherman said. “I am just hoping this decision isn’t scaring away coaches from working in this type of environment and athletes from attending these wonderful universities to do the thing they love and play and coach basketball.

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