What's new in 2018
As with every season, there are various changes occurring for the new 2018 season and we highlight some of the noteworthy ones. We look at who’s leaving Division III and who’s joining, updates in schools' membership status, conference affiliation changes, tweaks to the tournament field and berth allocations, rule changes and clarifications, etc. The number of schools switching conferences was rather high and we hope we caught all the moves.
THEY MADE IT! THERE ARE FOUR NEW DIVISION III MEMBER SCHOOLS
The process to become a full active Division III member involves a year of Exploratory Membership as a prerequisite to applying to join the division and, if accepted, four years of Provisional Membership (or Reclassifying Membership if transitioning from another NCAA division). When successfully completed, a school becomes a full active Division III member and their athletic teams gain eligibility to participate in NCAA championships. Four schools have successfully completed the process and enter the new season as full active Division III members.
• Former junior college Alfred State–SUNY College of Technology has achieved active Division III membership and is now eligible for NCAA tournaments. The Pioneers enter their second year of competition in the American Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) which formed last year; however, Alfred State will move to the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference in 2019. Because the ACAA does not yet have an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament, Alfred State is in Pool B for tournament selection. Coinciding with becoming a full D-III member, Alfred State rebranded their athletics program. While wanting to keep the "Pioneer" nickname, a complementary animal mascot was desired and an ox was the overwhelming preference over a dog or bear in the final round of voting by the student body.
• Iowa Wesleyan University of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) has completed the provisional process and has been approved for active Division III membership status. The former NAIA member is now eligible for NCAA tournaments as well as their conference tournaments. The Tigers began competition in the SLIAC five years ago when they gained provisional membership. The men posted their best conference record last year at 6-2-1 (3rd place), two more wins than the previous four seasons combined, and will look t take advantage of their post-season eligibility. The women have not fared so well, but did finally claim their first conference victory last season.
• The third new full Division III member is Illinois Institute of Technology (aka Illinois Tech), who like Iowa Wesleyan successfully transitioned from the NAIA. The Scarlet Hawks, who competed as independents throughout the provisional membership process, have joined the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC) starting this year and are eligible for the conference tournament and NCAA's. Having gone 5-2-0 against NACC opponents during their four-year provisional membership and posted a 10-4-1 record playing D-III opponents last season, the men's team was picked to finish sixth out of twelve teams in the NACC preseason poll. The women, with a 10-5-0 record against NACC schools during the transition, were picked to finish seventh.
• Former Division III member McMurry University is the fourth school to obtain full Division III membership starting this season. The War Hawks left Division III and the American Southwest Conference (ASC) for Division II after the 2011-12 school year, but reversed course two years into the transition process. Thus, for the first time in six years, McMurry is eligible for post-season play—both the conference and NCAA tournaments.
ONE FOOT IN THE DOOR - DIVISION III PROVISIONAL / RECLASSIFYING UPDATES
• Approval to enter their fourth and final year of provisional membership was granted to Belhaven University. The Blazers also enter their fourth season of play in the American Southwest Conference (ASC) this fall but remain ineligible for the conference championship tournament. Belhaven is scheduled to become an active Division III member and gain eligibility for NCAA tournament participation (and the ASC championship) starting next season. Just as last year, games against them are considered in-division and thus part of primary criteria for ranking and tournament selection.
• No schools are in the third year of the provisional or reclassifying membership process this season.
• Three schools have been approved to advance to year two of the transition process to Division III. Brevard College and Pfeiffer University, as former Division II schools, are advancing through the reclassifying membership process while Dean College, previously a junior college, progresses through the provisional membership process. All three schools secured conference affiliation within Division III last year already, with Brevard and Pfeiffer playing in the USA South Athletic Conference and Dean participating in the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC). These teams will play full conference schedules but their games will not count toward conference standings and they are not eligible for their conference tournaments. Games against these schools do not count as “in-region” or “in-division” games. Assuming no delays (or acceleration), these schools would achieve full Division III membership status for the 2021/22 school year.
• Two of the three schools that completed their exploratory membership year in 2017/18 have applied for Division III membership and have been granted entry into year one of the four-year provisional membership process. Johnson & Wales University - Denver is transitioning to Division III from the NAIA while the State University of New York at Delhi, one of SUNY’s technology colleges, has been a junior college. Both schools have already secured conference affiliation within Division III, with JWU-Denver beginning play in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) and SUNY Delhi participating in the American Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) this fall. While these teams will play full conference schedules, their games will not count toward conference standings and they are not eligible for their conference tournaments. Games against these schools do not count as “in-region” or “in-division” games. Assuming no delays (or acceleration), these schools would achieve full Division III membership status for the 2022/23 school year.
• Four schools have been granted entrance into a year of Exploratory Membership, a precursor to applying for full active Division III membership: Bob Jones University, Mississippi University for Women, Pratt Institute, and the University of St. Thomas – Houston. Upon satisfactory completion of the exploratory year and continued desire to pursue full membership, the institutions would begin the four-year provisional membership process in 2019/20. Assuming no delays, these schools would become active Division III members for the 2023/24 school year. Bob Jones currently competes in Division II of the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) of which they were national champions in 2016. Pratt has joined the American Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) starting this fall after fourteen years as a founding member of the multi-division Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (HVIAC). Pratt won the NAIA men’s championship in 1959, edging Elizabethtown College 4-3 in double overtime. St. Thomas-Houston (no connection to long-time Division III member St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota) is currently an NAIA member, but will join the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) next season contingent on being accepted into the Provisional Membership process.
DIVISION III WELCOMES TWO MEN'S PROGRAMS: A FORMER DIVISION I CHAMPION AND A BRAND NEW PROGRAM
• Hartwick College has decided to end their Division I women’s water polo program and move their men’s soccer program from Division I to Division III where all their other athletics programs compete as members of the Empire 8 Conference. The men’s soccer team will not play an Empire 8 schedule this fall and will only gain eligibility for the NCAA tournament in 2020 after a two-year probabtionary period. Games against the Hawks this season will be treated as in-division games to be considered in the primary selection criteria. Hartwick was a strong program at the Division I level in the 1970’s and 80’s., winning the 1977 national championship (the smallest school to ever do so) and making seven final four appearances (1970, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1980, 1984, 1985).
• The 86-year old University of Saint Joseph (Connecticut) becomes fully co-educational this school year and has added men's soccer, basketball, cross-country and swimming/diving programs whose teams will immediately compete in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) where their women's teams, including soccer, have been competing since the conference was established in 1995 with Saint Joseph as a charter member. The independent not-for-profit university was founded in 1932 by the Sisters of Mercy of Connecticut as the first liberal arts college for women in the Hartford area. In November 2016 the Catholic institution located just west of the state capitol began its research and analysis of becoming co-educational, reaching a decision in June 2017. A couple months later, Paul Wright was named the school's first-ever head men’s soccer coach with just under a year to prepare for the Blue Jays debut this fall. It's Wright's first head coaching position at the collegiate level, having previously been an assistant at Trinity (Conn.) and Division I Central Connecticut State, the latter his alma mater where he was a standout player from 1995 to 1998. His team is immediately eligible for the NEAC and NCAA tournaments because Saint Joseph is a full, active Division III member.
NO MORE, GONE, AND ON THE WAY OUT
• Mount Ida College closed its doors and ceased operations following the commencement ceremonies this spring. Mount Ida had spent the last twelve years as a member of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC).
• Following the completion of the 2017/18 school year, Wheelock College is no more, having merged with Boston University’s School of Education to produce the renamed Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development. Wheelock had competed in and was a charter member of the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC).
• Green Mountain College has left Division III and the North Atlantic Conference (NAC) to return to the NAIA where it previously was a member from 1983 to 2002. The Eagles are joining the Northeastern Intercollegiate Athletics Conference (NIAC).
• Benedictine University and the University of Texas at Tyler have been accepted into the three-year Division II membership process. During this transition, their teams are ineligible for NCAA championships. Benedictine will continue to play a full Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC) schedule this season before joining the Division II’s Great Lakes Valley Conference in year two of the process. Similarly, Texas-Tyler will play one last season in the American Southwest Conference (ASC) this fall before switching to Division II’s Lone Star Conference. Despite playing full conference schedules, their games will not count toward conference standings as they are not eligible for their conference tournaments, however, the NCAA has ruled that games against these schools this season will be considered in-division games and included in the primary selection criteria for ranking and tournament berth selections.
BACK AFTER A BLACK MARK
The United States Merchant Marine Academy has reinstated its men’s soccer program after a one-year suspension. The men’s soccer team did not compete in the fall 2017 season because of the federal investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by members of the team during the fall 2016 season. Merchant Marine is a member of the Skyline Conference and the men’s soccer team will resume conference competition this fall.
OLD TEAMS, NEW CONFERENCE
Five founding members of the Colonial States Athletic Conference (CSAC) broke away and joined with two schools from the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) to form the Atlantic East Conference (AEC) which begins play this season. The charter members of the AEC are as follows:
Arcadia University was also involved in discussion to form the new conference, but did not join at this time though it is understood they remain interested. As the NCAA prefers to keep all conference members in the same region for ranking and tournament selection purposes, it is expected that Marymount and Wesley will be considered Mid-Atlantic members. With all seven schools being full Division III members, the new conference will gain automatic berths to NCAA tournaments starting in 2020/21 after the required two-year waiting period. This year and next, its teams will start in Pool B for tournament selection purposes.
HOLD ON! IT'S BEEN A WILD OFF-SEASON OF CONFERENCE MUSICAL CHAIRS
• The Colonial States Athletic Conference (CSAC) reacted to the loss of five schools, all charter members, to the AEC by adding Bryn Athyn College and Wilson College from the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) and lining up the College of St. Elizabeth, also of the NEAC, to join in 2019/20. With the additions, the CSAC will continue to meet the seven-team requirement for gaining an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament in both in men’s and women’s soccer despite to defections to the AEC. Seven men’s and nine women’s teams will compete this season, increasing to eight and ten, respectively, next year.
• Even with the domino-effect loss of Bryn Athyn College and Wilson College to the Colonial States Athletic Conference (CSAC), the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) is still robust with twelve men’s and women’s teams this fall. Bryn Athyn had competed in the NEAC since 2014/15 while Wilson’s membership dated back to 2007/08. Their departures unbalance the two-division set-up that debuted last year and it appears the conference will not use divisions this year. The departure of the College of St. Elizabeth next year will be offset by the return of Penn State Harrisburg after six years in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) and would make for a balanced North and South division arrangement once again.
• The other conference directly impacted by the creation of the American East Conference (AEC), the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC), has been reduced to eight men’s and women’s teams for this season with the loss of Marymount University and Wesley College. That’s one more than needed to be eligible for an automatic NCAA tournament berth; however, with Frostburg State University set to leave for Division II next year and Penn State Harrisburg scheduled to return to the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC), the CAC would drop below the seven-team threshold. A conference gets a two-year grace period to get back to the required seven teams before losing their automatic berth, so the CAC is in need of at least one new member to join in time for the 2021/22 school year.
• The North Atlantic Conference (NAC) welcomes new members State University of New York at Canton and the University of Maine at Presque Isle to partially offset the departure of four members. Castleton University has left for the Little East Conference (LEC) after eighteen years in the NAC. Colby-Sawyer College and New England College, who both joined the NAC from the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) in 2012, depart for their third conference this decade, however, for the first time since 1994/95 they will not be conference rivals as Colby-Sawyer joins the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) and New England enters the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC). And as mentioned previously, Green Mountain College left Division III for the NAIA. Newcomers SUNY Canton and Maine-Presque Isle were both members of the newly formed and geographically disjointed American Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) last year, and their addition keeps the NAC above the threshold for an automatic berth to the NCAA tournaments with eight men’s and women’s soccer teams.
• New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) has a net increase of one men’s and one women’s team for this season. While the conference lost Wheelock College due to its merger into Boston University, the conference adds Eastern Nazarene College and New England College who join from the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) and North Atlantic Conference (NAC), respectively. The NECC enter play this fall with nine men’s and ten women’s programs.
• With the loss of Eastern Nazarene College to the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC), the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) now has nine men’s and women’s teams. Eastern Nazarene’s departure ends a 26-year affiliation with the CCC. With nine members, the CCC is the smallest it has been since the 1994/95 school year. Incidentally, it was the addition of Eastern Nazarene in 1992 that brought the conference to nine members as the CCC grew from eight to thirteen members in the 1990’s.
• For the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) the loss of Mount Ida College which ceased operations has been countered by the addition of Colby-Sawyer College, formerly of the North Atlantic Conference (NAC). As six different schools have come and six others have gone over the past 20 years, the GNAC has always resettled with thirteen members which for this fall represents eleven men’s and thirteen women’s soccer teams.
• The Little East Conference (LEC) has grown from eight to nine members, all fielding men's and women's soccer teams, with the arrival of Castleton University from the North Atlantic Conference (NAC). The LEC has never had a member leave, being founded by six schools in 1986 and growing to eight members in the 1990's before twenty-one years of unchanged membership. With Castleton, located in Vermont, the LEC now has at east one member in every New England state.
• Ferrum College has left the USA-South Athletic Conference for the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC). This is just the second change in ODAC membership (along with Shenandoah University’s addition in 2012) in the past 25 years. It gives the conference 13 men’s and 14 women’s soccer teams.
• In contrast to the ODAC's stability, the USA-South Athletic Conference has added eleven members and lost three over the past seven years. With Ferrum College's move away, the conference drops to 13 men’s and 17 women’s teams divided into two divisions. One can’t help but think of the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) back in the 1990’s, which split into two conferences under shared administration to gain an additional automatic berth a year after the automatic berth system had been stablished. The NCAA has been clear that the MAC was an exceptional case (it was already very large prior to the berth system being implemented) and a similar arrangement would not be allowed again. Therefore, a split of the USA-South into two fully independent conferences seems somewhat inevitable, although the loss of Ferrum leaves the men’s side one team short of enough for two seven-team conferences.
• As mentioned earlier, Illinois Institute of Technology, or Illinois Tech, has joined the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC) for their first year as a full Division III member. It increases the conference’s membership to thirteen schools with twelve men’s soccer teams and twelve women’s teams.
• The Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) has added 1st Year Provisional Member Johnson and Wales University-Denver as mentioned earlier. It increases the conference’s membership to nine schools with nine men’s soccer teams and eight women’s teams.
• Entering just its second year, the American Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) has already seen additions and subtractions. That’s not so surprising given the geographical disjointedness of this conference which is trying to provide a home and maybe eventually a path to an automatic tournament berth for otherwise independent schools across the country. SUNY Canton and Maine-Presque Isle have already moved on by joining the North Atlantic Conference (NAC). But the conference has still managed to grow with the additions of Mount Mary University, Pratt Institute, State University of New York at Delhi, and Thomas More College. However, it is going to be a challenge for the ACAA to reach and maintain the requisite seven eligible women’s and men’s teams to gain automatic berths. Pratt, a NAIA school who left the Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (HVIAC), hasn’t even started the provisional membership process and wouldn’t help make up the numbers until 2023/24. SUNY Delhi is only in Year One of the four-year provisional membership process and won’t count until 2022/23. Thomas More’s stay is only going to be one year with plans already in place to leave Division III for the NAIA and the Mid-South Conference next season. Alfred State departs for the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference (AMCC) next year. And formerly independent Mount Mary as a women’s only school, won’t help on the men’s side. The conference has seven men’s and nine women’s teams for the 2018 season, but not counting Thomas More and Alfred State who already are known to be leaving, there are only three eligible men’s teams and five eligible women’s teams currently in the fold.
IT WAS TIME FOR A CHANGE
• After 91 years as the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (IIAC) preceded by four years as the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Association (IIAA), one of Division III’s oldest conferences has changed its name to American Rivers Conference (ARC) four years shy of its centennial. Two years ago the conference expanded beyond Iowa’s boarders for the first time with the addition of Nebraska Wesleyan. According to the conference website and news release, "the new name centers on key geographic features of the conference's birthplace. The Mississippi to the east, the most famous river in America and one of the most famous in the world, and the Missouri to the west, the country's longest river, make up most of the State of Iowa's borders. The conference's regional and national reach is reflected in the name."
• For the second time this decade, the oldest collegiate athletic conference in the country, Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA), has made a significant change to its competition and championship format. In its 123rd year of existence, the conference inaugurated a post-season tournament in 2011 to award its automatic berth to the NCAA tournament (the conference championship continues to be awarded based on the regular season). For this season, the conference has abandoned its longstanding double-round robin format for regular season competition in favor of a typical single-rotation schedule. Together with this change is the expansion of the post-season tournament from four to six teams, adding two quarterfinal matches to be played on the Saturday that had previously been the final gameday of the regular season. This 50% reduction in regular season conference games from 14 to 7 for the men and from 16 to 8 for the women allows for a significant increase in non-conference competition. That, in turn, provides teams with much greater opportunity to develop a stronger strength of schedule which is a very important criteria in the ranking of and at-large selection of teams for the NCAA Tournament.
NCAA TOURNAMET: SAME OLD SAME OLD . . . ALMOST
• Because there is a two-year waiting period for a conference the gain automatic berths to NCAA tournaments, the seven charter members of the newly formed Atlantic East Conference (AEC) will move to Pool B for selection purposes. This means there will be 17 men’s and 19 women’s teams in Pool B, the largest number since the 2009 season. However, first indications are that the number of Pool B berths will remain at one for both men and women.
• The size of the men’s championship field will remain 62 teams for a second season in a row. With 42 men’s conferences having been granted automatic qualification for the fourth consecutive year, the allocations for the 2018 men’s championship are anticipated to be as follows: Pool A automatic berths (AQ)—42, Pool B at-large berths—1, Pool C at-large berths—19.
• For eight years now, the women’s championship field is at the limit of 64 teams. For a third straight season 43 women’s conferences have been granted automatic berths to the tournament. Berths to the 2018 women’s championship are anticipated to be allocated as follows: Pool A automatic berths (AQ)—43, Pool B at-large berths—1, Pool C at-large berths—20.
NOT-A-BIG-DEAL RULE CHANGES
Being an even-numbered year, the new season brings with it an updated rules book for NCAA soccer. The 2018 and 2019 NCAA Soccer Rules are in effect for the next two seasons. The changes in this new edition of the rules seem to be the least significant and impactful in recent memory, but you judge for yourself. Here are what the NCAA has identified as the “major rules changes”:
• Field Markings (Rules 1.3.5 and 1.3.6). Additional field markings are permitted provided they do not obscure any of the required lines and are not in the penalty area.
• Coaching Area (Rule 1.12.2). The coaching area may be within five feet from the touch line.
• Ball Pressure (Rule 2.1.3). The pressure of the ball must be within 8.5 to 15.6 psi.
• Defective Ball (Rule 2.3 Exception 2). A penalty kick may be retaken if the ball becomes defective.
• Uniforms (Rule 4.1.6). Additional logos/patches, which may not exceed 2¼-square inches, are permitted on the game jersey.
• Goalkeeper Stockings (Rule 4.1.9). Goalkeepers must wear stockings that distinguish them only from the opponent's field players.
• Referee's Pregame Duties (Rules 220.127.116.11 and 5.7.1). The referee must confirm with host game management if video review equipment is available. If available, video review will be used.
• Bands and Artificial Noisemakers (Rules 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124). Bands may play and musical instruments and artificial noisemakers may be used at anytime during the game.
• Video Review (Rule 126.96.36.199). Violent behavior may be reviewed.
• Kickoff (Rule 8.2.3). An "own" goal cannot be scored directly from a kickoff.
• Ejected Personnel (Rule 12.7 PENALTY). Ejected personnel must leave the venue and be out of sight and sound.
• Illegal Participation - Player/Assistant Coach/Bench Personnel (Rule 12.8.1 PENALTY 1). When a player, assistant coach or other bench personnel participates in a game while suspended, the head coach's period of suspension is doubled that of the illegal participant.
• Illegal Participation - Head Coach (Rule 12.8.1 PENALTY 2). When a head coach participates in a game while suspended, the head coach's period of suspension is four games.
• Game Suspension - Player (Rule 12.8.2). A player serving a game suspension may be in the team area, provided he/she is not in uniform.
• Game Suspension - Coach (Rule 12.8.3). A coach serving a game suspension is not permitted in the venue from 60 minutes before the start of the game until 30 minutes after the game ends.
• Indirect Free Kick (A.R. 13.1.3.d). If the referee fails to signal a kick is indirect and the ball is kicked directly into the opponent's goal, the indirect free kick must be retaken.
Comments or feedback for the author? Email Christan Shirk.