- Is a 16 man bracket "prestigious" enough in a world where we have so many classifications?
- Would a 32 man bracket ensure that we don't leave some deserving wrestlers out of the mix because of the current regional allocation approach?
- What would be most cost effective?
- Do we need a 3 week state tournament series (district, regional, state) or could we do better with a 2 week series?
So let me raise a similar issue with the NCAA Division 1 Tournament. In the year 2010, we have only 75 schools or so participating in the sport of wrestling. We limit the participation in the Division 1 tournament to D1 member schools only. So, here's the question - is a 32 man bracket appropriate for the NCAA D1 Tournament?
Here's why I ask. When I was in college 30 years ago, there were about 150+ D1 wrestling teams. Plus, the D2 finalists and the D3 champion got invites to the D1 tournament. In effect, the NCAA D1 Tournament back then represented 400 - 500 schools. So, a 32 man bracket meant we were inviting the top 20% or so of the D1 wrestlers. Or, more expansively, the 32 man bracket represented the top 7% or so of wrestlers in the entire country (when you figure in all the D2 and D3 schools). Just to give an example. I wrestled in the EIWA, which at that time was a 16 team tournament. We sent the top 3 finishers (plus 4 wild cards) to the NCAAs. A neighboring league, the EWL sent only their champion out of the 8 man bracket. The ACC sent only their champion. As did the Southern Conference, etc. On the flip side, the Big 8 (which only had 5 wrestling schools) would send their top 4 and the Big 10 would send their top 8 - 9. But, in effect, qualifying for the NCAAs was a big deal because outside of the varsity guys in the big two conferences, everyone else was fighting it out for some premium slots.
Nowadays, the tournament basically represents the top 40 - 45% of wrestlers. So, it's a lot less selective. I know, there are fewer opportunities and the athletes are all really good, etc. But still, it can raise the question of whether the NCAAs are too inclusive or whether the conference tournaments are really needed.
So, in terms of prestige and in terms of participation, perhaps the NCAA should go in one of these directions:
1. Reduce to a 16 man bracket. This would mean the NCAA tournament represents the top 20% of wrestlers in D1.
2. Make the NCAA D1 Tournament an all-inclusive tournament. Eliminate the conference tournaments, let every team bring all 10 of their guys, and use the RPI system to seed everyone onto a 64 man bracket, with pigtails.
3. Keep the bracket at 32 and allow the top 2 from D2 + the champ from D3 into the tournament. This means the 32 man bracket would represent the best of a couple of hundred schools at least.
OK, the floor is open. Let the discussion begin.