Change in format for 2013 NCAA Championships?

  • Barry Haworth
    Here's an interesting article about Vin Lananna's ideas about possibly changing the format of the NCAA championship next year to make the meet more fan-friendly. Given the discussion we've had here about our own State Meet, I thought this might interest a few people.


    Panel and Vin Lananna push for fan-friendly NCAA track and field meet format
    Athlete and team storylines lost in confusion, officials say

    By Curtis Anderson
    The Register-Guard
    Published: (Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 04:25AM) Today



    The NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships return to Hayward Field next season.

    It’s one of the best events in college sports but generates scant television coverage and gains little traction with average sports fans, in part, because of overlapping storylines.

    The problem, analysts say, is that it’s too hard to make sense of what’s transpiring on the track, in the infield, and at the various throwing venues, let alone which schools are in contention for men’s and women’s team championships.

    Those title races take place within the context of 21 events per gender, all happening at the same time over a lengthy four-day schedule of competition.

    That there are no field event scoreboards to bring spectators up to date with instant results, as you’d find at most other major sports events, only adds to the confusion.

    Meet announcers do a heroic job trying to keep pace with everything going on, but it’s an impossible task.

    For the past three years, Oregon director of track and field Vin Lananna and other members of a championship advisory committee have challenged the NCAA Track & Field Committee to come up with a better format to showcase the athletes, their performances and the team races at the NCAA championships.

    “A track meet is often referred to as a three-ring circus, and there is a lot of truth to that,” Lananna said. “Too many things are going on at once. How can someone tell the story when they don’t even know what the story is?

    “These are great athletes and those are exciting events. Unfortunately, not enough people are watching. I think what we can do is take (the NCAA meet) and re-package it so it’s more TV-friendly.

    “Now that ESPN has signed a 13-year agreement with the NCAA, we need to push the envelope to make sure we have a show which is media friendly and popular with fans.”

    One idea on the table is to separate men’s and women’s events, so media and spectators can focus on one storyline per day.

    For example, the men’s events could be contested on Wednesday and Friday, with the women’s events held on Thursday and Saturday.

    “I’m not a fan of separating the genders,” Lananna said. “But I am a fan of shortening the meet and focusing on a crisp story, and the crisp story is who’s trying to win the men’s title and who’s trying to win the women’s title. It’s very difficult to be able to discern that when both are going at once.”

    The NCAA women’s track and field meet as a stand-alone event, rivals any other NCAA women’s championship, Lananna says.

    “I think the quality of the NCAA women’s track and field championships is as good as any other sport in the NCAA,” he said. “I don’t think men’s track will ever be as popular or as financially rewarding as football or basketball, but it’s still pretty exciting, and it has been for years and years.”

    Track and field is also one of the few sports that generates mutual respect from both sides, he adds.

    When UO’s English Gardner split a 50.8 leg to lead off the Ducks’ 4x400 women’s relay, it commanded the same attention as Florida’s Tony McQuay, who ran 44.1 on the 4x400 anchor leg to give the Gators the victory and the team title.

    “A point guard in the WNBA is not viewed as the same caliber as a point guard in the NBA,” Lananna said. “But everybody (at the NCAAs) appreciated what English Gardner did the same way they appreciated what Tony McQuay did.”

    One other possible change would be scaling back the number of athletes in each event at the NCAA East and West preliminary rounds, from 48 to 32.

    In that scenario, only 16 would advance to the NCAA championships instead of the current 24, which forces meet officials to run three semifinals in every laned event.

    “That’s crazy,” Lananna said. “You should never have three heats in a semifinal. You’re leaving some really good kids out just because they didn’t get in the right heat.”

    Whether changes will be made before the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships remains to be seen. But in the end, those pushing for change say it’s a story worth telling.
  • Cory Westerfield

    Actually, if we went to a change like the NCAA is contemplating, it would have a big impact on our state meet planning as coaches. The majority of invitationals that exist in KY are both genders competing alternately (girls 100 Hurdles, boys 110 Hurdles, girls 100, boys 100, etc...) If we made a change like this, it would throw our kids for a big loop at the state meet if they didn't have that guaranteed rest time while the boys run each event after they do. After going through a season where we are alternating genders every race, to go to a state meet that doesn't work the same way might not be what's best....just a thought.
  • Chris Beckerson
    How about we rotate through the 3 classes instead of rotating boys / girls. Start with the 4X800m relay in Class A, then Class 2A, then Class 3A. OR, even more out of the box, how about we run the three classes together based on seed times and separate out the results like Frank used to do at the Meet of Champions HS races. The hidden advantage is that we would actually get to see the best go against the best, regardless of class. It would result in a longer day but would actually give more rest for those doing multiple events. And, this year it would have allowed the big schools to see some of the records broken in 1A and 2A and allowed the smaller schools to see the records broken in 3A.

    Just a thought.

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  • Brian Crumbo

    We used to rotate all three classes back in the early 90's. It was a LONG day, and that was even when we only had one heat of every event at state. Also, the venues we have available (like UofL) would not logistically handle have the crowds and traffic for all three classes there at the same time on the same day.
  • Lowery Stallings
    i am actually familiar with all 3 ways of doing it. 2 of my HS years were in Iowa - which rotates through the classes (they have 4). coached in Indiana - 1 class, boys & girls on separate days. And of course the KY way. All have the pros & cons and really, if I had to choose probably prefer the KY way, IF were were to go back to heats & finals. I really don't like not having head-to-head races deciding the medalist. When you do, it eliminates some of the problems we are dealing with now, on awards. You just corral the runners at the finish and immediately award. The main thing about I liked about Vin's ideas, was the attempt to better present the NCAA's. I think one of the biggest problems with our sport is that team results are almost an afterthought. After everyone has cleared the stands and sometimes even after teams have left - its "and the team champion is __________, if there is anyone still around associated with the school, please pick up your trophy". I would say we do a reasonably good job of highlighting individuals (except that we could improve considerably with field events). In most meets in IN (not necessarily saying they are so much better, because there are plenty of things KY does better), they announce the team score regularly throughout the meet. It always seemed that we had meets going down the 4x4. That raises an already exciting, concluding race - to fever pitch - when you know that the team title is hanging on the results.
  • Cory Westerfield

    How are most of the meets done in Indiana? I grew up in Southern Indiana and most meets were single gender. We attended my high school's girls invitational last season. I just wondered if that was common throughout the state or not? I do agree that kids would adjust and we as coaches would too.
  • Lowery Stallings

    Where I was - north of Indy in farm country - all of our regular season meets were both genders and only the tournament was separate. But XC was together. As Crumbo said, you adjusted. I think the biggest challenge was for those of us that coached both. It meant 2 trips for Sectional-Regional-State. State was the tough one, because the starting time was mid-afternoon, which for us meant getting home very late, then having to turn around and do it all again the next day. Sectional & Regional had a day in between. I would say conferences are a much bigger deal there. Next to the state tournament meets, conference was the biggest goal for the season.