Warning: Below is a VERY long post, read at your own peril. I’m procrastinating doing house and yard work so I sat down and punched this out to delay the inevitable! HAHA
“True” TEAM Outdoor Track & Field Championship Thoughts
Some of us like the current format where Team National Championships are often won with a handful of high quality individuals scoring in the top 8. Theoretically, a program could have 4-5 “stars” win a National Team Championship, yet finish in the middle of the pack at their conference meet. When this happens (not always, but it can) it can be difficult to explain to “outsiders” of the sport how a middle-level conference performing team could win a Team National Championship. I’m not familiar with all the collegiate sports, but of the major sports I can’t think of a typical scenario where a middle-level conference performing team can win a National Championship. In basketball, for example, if you aren’t rated nationally in the top 64-72ish teams, you won’t even have a chance after the regular season concludes.
So… with that backdrop I figured I would throw out some rough thoughts about how a TEAM Outdoor Track & Field Championship advancement system might be structured, while still providing the opportunity for top individuals in each event NOT on a qualifying team the opportunity to win an individual national championship – similar to the way individuals have an opportunity to qualify in XC.
Max Roster Size per Gender = 60 (&&& See very bottom for alternative Roster size)
For the Regional and National Meet a maximum of only 3 athletes in any single event and only 1 multi can be used. This would generate a maximum of 55 athletes in individual events; 1 in the multi and 54 in the other 18 events (3 per event, per gender, per team).
The remaining 5 roster spots can be backups in any event area in case someone becomes injured/sick. HOWEVER, only 3 individuals per school are allowed to compete in any one event. The extra 5 could also be used for 4x100 and/or 4x400 relays.
From the season performance rankings after the conference meets the top 64 teams with the best combined marks (*** see below for how team scores are determined) compete at four separate Regional meets (16 teams at each Regional Meet) along with the top 24 individuals in any single event NOT on one of the top 64 teams.
The top 4 teams in each region advance to the National Championship along with any individuals NOT on a top 4 Regional team who finishes in the top 6 in any individual event.
At the National Championship the winner of each individual event would be the Individual National Champion for that event – the same way it is now. The TEAM Championship would be determined by the best cumulative performances from one of the 16 teams that qualified.
***How would team scores be determined?
The marks for the 3 individuals on the same team in each event would be added together. The team with the best collective mark for that event would earn 16 points; the team with the 2nd best trio would earn 15 points; and so on down to the 16th best trio who would earn 1 team point.
For the Multis only the top 16 individuals would be used to generate a team score. The individual with the greatest number of points in the competition AND that is on a team in that competition (e.g. Regionals or Nationals) would earn 16 points, 2nd place individual on a team in that competition 15 points, and so on down to 16th place. Alternatively, Multis could advance to the National Meet the same way they currently do.
This scoring would be used for each event, including the 4x100 and 4x400 relays, to generate a total team score. A perfect score would be 336 points for 19 individual events and the two relays.
An alternative to this scoring is to continue using the 10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 system currently in place. The top combined marks for the 3 individuals from one team in a single event would earn 10 points, 8 points for second, and so on until 8th place earning 1 point. Placing 9th – 16th would not earn points towards the team score.
Traveling 16 teams with potentially 60 athletes per team would bring about 960 participants per gender at each Regional meet, NOT including any individuals who qualified in the top 24 on the post regular-season performance lists. For the National Meet it would again be about 960 participants per gender NOT including individuals NOT on a top 4 team from a regional meet that finished in the top 6 in any event at their respective Regional Meet.
Currently there are about 900 competition slots for each gender at each 1st Round Preliminary Meet, which would make the Regional meets slightly larger. Of course, the current National Meet is about ½ the size of the current Preliminary Round.
&&& If having 3 individuals per event with a maximum roster size of 60 per gender is seen as too much, then a roster size of 40 could be used with 36 competition spots for Conference (optional, conference may want different parameters), Regionals and Nationals at 2 individuals per team, per gender, per event with 1 multi for a total of 37. This would leave 3 spots for injuries/sickness and/or 4x100 and/or 4x400 relays.
With a maximum of 40 spots per team per gender, the four (4) Regional meets would be reduced in size to about 640 individuals per gender NOT including individuals in the top 24 on the post regular season individual event performance lists NOT on one of the top 64 teams. (!!! see below Individuals assigned to Regions)
How are regions determined?
A format similar to the NCAA Basketball Tournament could be used such that instead of only using geography; teams could be disbursed in a seeded order based on season-ending performance marks. The teams with the top 4 team marks would be the #1 seeds in each respective region; the next 4 teams with the best team marks would be the #2 seeds, and so on down to the 4 teams ranked #s 61-62-63-64 earning #16 seeds.
Team seeded 1A (#1 overall) goes to Region Alpha
Team seeded 1B (#2 overall) goes to Region Beta
Team seeded 1C (#3 overall) goes to Region Gamma
Team seeded 1D (#4 overall) goes to Region Delta
Continue Serpentine Seeding…
Team seeded 2A (#5 overall) to Delta
Team seeded 2B (#6 overall) to Gamma
Team seeded 2C (#7 overall) to Beta
Team seeded 2D (#8 overall) to Alpha
…and so on until
Team seeded 16A (#61 overall) to Delta
Team seeded 16B (#62 overall) to Gamma
Team seeded 16C (#63 overall) to Beta
Team seeded 16D (#64 overall) to Alpha
For example, the Alpha Region would have these 16 teams and their respective seeds post conference performance lists: (Note: I think I did this correctly; just did it in my head as I was typing.)
1. 1A (#1 overall)
2. 2D (#8 overall)
3. 3A (#9 overall)
4. 4D (#16 overall)
5. 5A (#17 overall)
6. 6D (#24 overall)
7. 7A (#25 overall)
8. 8D (#32 overall)
9. 9A (#33 overall)
10. 10D (#40 overall)
11. 11A (#41 overall)
12. 12D (#48 overall)
13. 13A (#49 overall)
14. 14D (#56 overall)
15. 15A (#63 overall)
16. 16D (#64 overall)
One MAJOR weakness of this assigned Regional format is that the 64 teams will not have much turn-around time to make travel plans. From the beginning of the season, however, all teams would know there is a possibility of traveling to one of four locations for a Regional meet should their team achieve a top 64 team score and any individuals who may qualify if they are not on one of the top 64 teams. There should not be a problem with the National Meet, however, as that venue will have already been established just like it is now.
A second MAJOR weakness is that if both a men’s and women’s team from the same school qualifies and are assigned different regions, the logistics might be nearly impossible to manage. One solution would be to have the Men’s and Women’s Regional meets on separate days. For example, on the same week the Men would compete Mon-Tue-Wed (or maybe just have it be a two-day meet, though, that brings additional challenges), and the Women would compete Thu-Fri-Sat. The following year the women could compete earlier in the week and the men later. Obviously, programs with this “problem” would need to have some staff stay back and prep/travel with the gender competing later in the week and the coaches/staff at the gender’s meet occurring Mon-Tue-Wed would likely need to travel directly to the next competition site from the first competition site, assuming they were different. Of course, this would likely be the case for programs with a combined coaching staff; those programs with separate coaching staffs for men and women should be okay; although they could have individuals qualify for one gender and a team for the other gender. All schools could potentially have individuals of different genders qualify. As such, this is a MAJOR logistic that needs figuring out. Feel free to make suggestions if you’ve continued to read this far and have the time to think of “Track Utopia!”
!!! How are individuals NOT on a Regional Qualifying Team assigned to a particular region?
This is a bit of conundrum. My initial thought is that a national performance list for each individual event be generated after conference meets conclude. If the person’s mark is in the top 24 and they are not on a team in the top 64, then they, along with other individuals in the top 24 for that event, could be seeded in a serpentine manner similar to the teams – a modified seeding.
Another solution would be to have two regional meets AT the SAME VENUE, but on different days. This may also address the weakness noted above where a school has a team (or individuals) of each gender qualify. The committee assigning seeds could flip-flop a seeding so that a school is traveling to the same venue, both genders. For example, if the men’s team was seeded #17 and they were supposed to compete at venue Theta and the women’s team was seeded #52 and they were supposed to compete at venue Iota, the women could flip-flop with the #51 seed so that they would travel with the men’s team to venue Theta.
Easier Solution and Closing Thoughts
Of course, perhaps the easiest solution is to keep the current East-West venues each year and only take the top 32 teams (with 2/3 individuals in each event for each team for each gender) and the top 24 individuals in each event NOT on one of those 16 teams. Then proceed with the same scoring and advancement ideas suggested above - top 8 teams from the East Meet and top 8 teams from the West Meet along with any individuals finishing in the top 6 who are NOT on one of those 8 teams.
Limiting roster sizes to 40 or 60 per NCAA rules would push teams to be well-rounded in all events in order to be competitive while at the same time not allowing hoarding a huge number of athletes in a particular event (e.g. distance-only/oriented schools).
This format would also maintain the integrity of celebrating individual performances while at the same time creating a different mechanism to recognize outstanding TEAMS.
Ok, off to do the work I’ve been procrastinating to do!