Whittier College water polo coach Justin Pudwill shared more details of the NCAAs move toward approving an automatic spot to the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) men’s champion this coming fall.
The CWPA reported today that the NCAA Championship Cabinet approved the change during their meetings in Indianapolis June 12-13. The SCIAC champions, according to minutes from those meetings, would earn a play-in match versus the next-lowest ranked qualifier.
While excited about the decision, Pudwill noted that that it wasn’t final until the NCAA published it, but indicated that the new format was all but approved according to his understanding of the matter.
Pat Beemer, new head coach at Caltech, wrote that the decision was, “a long time coming, but it represents a huge boon to the SCIAC conference,” in a text message.
The initiative gained momentum during a SCIAC coaches’ meeting after the 2012 men’s season. During that gathering Lorin Huffman, Executive Director, was tasked with proposing the new format to the NCAA. Though that proposal has apparently been adopted the details of its execution remain unclear.
According to Pudwill, the basic format of the championship tournament will apparently remain, with a four-team national championship tournament. Automatic qualifiers will be selected as they have in the past several years, to include the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation champion, the Western Water Polo Association champion, the Collegiate Water Polo Association champion, and an at-large competitor, which has come exclusively from the top-rated MPSF since the 90s.
The fifth automatic qualifier, the SCIAC champion, would henceforth have to play an additional play-in match versus the next lowest rated conference champion based on the team’s Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) ranking. The winner of that match would become the fourth competitor in the championship tournament. When and where that play-in match would take place is uncertain, though Pudwill speculated it could mimic recent women’s championship tournaments in which the equivalent play in-matches have been hosted by the higher rated team a week before the national championships.
The SCIAC was founded in 1915 and originally included Caltech, Occidental, Pomona, Redlands and Whittier, making it the oldest water polo-sponsoring athletic conference in the US.