June 12. 2008 8:09PM
Wrestling coaches propose NCCA qualifying changes
By J.R. Ogden
LAS VEGAS ? Qualifying for the NCAA wrestling tournament will get a little tougher and, maybe, a little easier.
The National Wrestling Coaches Association heard the final update here Thursday on what the NCAA wrestling committee will recommend to the competition cabinet this month. The qualifying procedure throws out the old "historical data" and allots NCAA berths based on season performance while possibly expanding the field from 330 qualifiers to 360.
"We are confident it is the right way to go," said Big Ten Deputy Commissioner Brad Traviolia, a former Northwestern wrestler and a member of the committee. "Now we have to wait and see if it's approved."
Traviolia's committee was asked to respond to concerns about the existing formula that awards qualifiers based on past NCAA performance. The proposal awards qualifiers on three criteria ? season performance (a variety of won-loss scenarios), an RPI (strength of schedule) formula and a coaches ranking.
"What we're trying to do is create a toolbox full of different tools that use current-year data only," Traviolia said.
He said the won-loss portion will include a wrestlers' overall record, record against other Top 10, Top 20 and Top 30 wrestlers and the last 10 matches. "Any way you slice and dice your season as far as winning and losing (is concerned)," he said.
The RPI formula is "your winning percentage multiplied by your opponent's winning percentage, multiplied by your opponent's opponents' winning percentage."
The coaches poll puts more importance on one set of rankings instead of the several circulating today.
When all those factors are thrown together, wrestlers will be ranked as meeting the gold standard (all three criteria) or silver standard (two of three).
"They are going to reserve a spot at that weight class for their respective conference," said Traviolia, noting the NWCA, in conjunction with the NCAA, will keep track of the data. "It doesn't guarantee the individual, but it guarantees a spot for that conference."
For instance, if the Big Ten Conference has eight gold or silver standard 125-pounders, the conference will get eight qualifiers at that weight. A weaker weight gets fewer qualifiers. All conference champions, regardless of their standard, automatically qualify.
All conferences will know by mid to late February how many automatic berths are on the line. The other qualifiers ? six to eight per weight, Traviolia figures ? will be determined by a six-member committee (four coaches) after the conference meets, based on similar strength-of-schedule criteria.
This formula makes dual meets and regular-season tournaments more important, something Traviolia said is vital for the health of wrestling.
"We need to re-embrace the dual meet," he said. "We need to have an important regular season and important conference tournaments."
While pleased with the formula and optimistic about its potential, Traviolia said getting it passed is "not a formality." The proposal can be approved, rejected or modified. A new formula will be in place by next year's tournament, he said.
"There are some parts of the recommendation that are basic, are not controversial," he said. "They'll be approved automatically. There are others that are significant asks. (More qualifiers) is not something that is rubber-stamped by any means."
But, he said, it makes sense because even this formula favors the Big Ten and Big 12 conferences. Having 30 more qualifiers opens the field to other programs. He gives the larger field a "50-50" chance, however.
"We want to get the best kids there, but what's in the best interest for the long-term health of the sport?," he said. "Championships not only need to determine your national champion, but we need to use it to market the sport."
He said this formula addresses all concerns ? including eliminating wild-card meetings ? and is fiscally feasible.
"We have good support (nationally) and unanimous support in the wrestling community." Traviolia said. "The question is do you (the competition cabinet) care?"
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