The NCAA Beach Championships field will be announced at 7 p.m. ET tonight (April 29) live on NCAA.com.
Ahead of the announcement, VolleyMob checked in with NCAA Director of Championships and Alliances Kristin Fasbender to get the ins and outs of the selection process, including its regional nature, the criteria for selection and more. Our conversation with her is below, but first, some basics.
The Selection Committee
Corey Bray – Associate Athletics Director for Compliance, UAB
Ted Gumbart – Commissioner , Atlantic Sun Conference
Kelcey Roegiers – Associate Athletics Director/SWA, Georgia State
Donna Heinel – Senior Associate Athletics Director/SWA, USC
Nina Matthies – Head beach volleyball coach, Pepperdine
Todd Rogers – Head beach volleyball coach, Cal Poly
Eight schools will be selected for the double-elimination tournament, which will take place May 4-6 in Gulf Shores, Alabama at Gulf Beach Place. Matches will be aired on ESPNU, ESPN2 and ESPN.
Unlike indoor volleyball and men’s, the selections are first dictated by region: three from the East Region and three from the West region. After those teams are picked, the committee then looks at teams from across the nation to decide who the final two selections will be. Those two may come from either region.
A Timeline of the Call:
Fasbender: The committee will actually start the selection process tomorrow (on Sunday). They will be on a conference call and they usually pick one region to start with and start talking about those teams looking at our criteria when they are comparing those teams:
- Head to head in region
- Common opponents in region
- Overall win/loss record
- Strength of schedule
Once they finish one region, they will hop over and do the other region and do the same thing there. And then they will look at the other teams, say those they have ranked 4 and 5-ish in both regions and start looking at those four to five teams to determine who should be those last two teams selected. So from a process standpoint, that is what we look at.
Obviously some of the people on the committee have teams involved in the process, including two coaches? Do they “leave the room” as we often hear about for men’s basketball, etc., when their team is discussed. Can you give us a glimpse onto the conference call?
From the standpoint of the committee and us having a lot of folks involved whose respective schools could be involved and we have a conference commissioner as well, anytime their team is being talked about or from their conference in the case of the commissioner, they will be off the call.
If we were getting ready to talk about say Pepperdine, Nina (Matthies) would be off the call. The same goes for Donna with USC or any other team the committee members represent. They are not able to vote on those teams or to be a part of those discussions. We have them hop of the call, then we discuss their team, and then have them hop back on once we have finished discussing their team.
Once we have selected all eight teams, the committee then goes back and seeds all eight teams. And the same thing applies in that case when we are discussing a team that is affiliated with a committee member. In the seeding process, we ask them to get off the call as well because we don’t want them to be a part of it and we don’t want the perception to be that they are making decisions on things that can affect their team, including who they would have to play, etc.
Those are some of the procedural things that are pretty standard in regards to all of our NCAA selection processes whenever a committee member’s team is under consideration.
Since there is no formal RPI for beach, how is the criteria you spoke of earlier broken down?
We have a score reporting system which a lot of our sports which don’t have a formal RPI system use. Throughout the season the teams are reporting their scores and that is dropped into a score reporting software that we have which puts everything in a nice neat package. It is divided into the two regions and the committee members can pull up the region they are discussing and look at head to head region record is X-Y-Z, they can look at common opponents within region, strength of schedule for in-region matches, etc. Then, when we discuss at-large selections, (the software) has the capability to add teams into one group to compare them as well. So, while it is not an RPI process like we have for the indoor game, it is very similar information, it is just compiled a little bit differently.
The Big West Conference is still playing its pairs championship today, how will that work for Coach Todd Rogers from Cal Poly, to be on the conference call and still coaching some of his pairs out in Honolulu?
Coach Rogers told us he could have pairs still playing on Sunday. What we will do is take a look at it timing wise with him and say okay, let’s start with the West Region first, because Cal Poly may be under consideration there, then he maybe doesn’t have to be on the call at a certain time and that gives him the opportunity to go coach. He will hop on and off.
In the indoor game, we don’t have any coaches on the committee, it is only administrators. It depends on the sport. Basketball does not, but ice hockey has coaches on it as do a few others.
I worked with women’s soccer for years and it was always an interesting one because conference tournaments were finishing right up until the end and we met in person then. So, those coaches either called in or came flying in after their conference tournament, so it is a little interesting, but it has worked well and it has not been an issue.
We will monitor it this week with Todd and hopefully be able to give him an opportunity to be on when he can be on and he mentioned too that he has assistant coaches that may be able to help out with his team when he has to be on the phone with us.
Obviously the two coaches on the committee live this every day, does the committee meet throughout the season to discuss things so everyone stays involved and is aware of what has happened heading into Selection Sunday? Is there a heavy reliance on the coaches?
Before January, the committee meets once a month via conference call. Once January hits, they meet every other week via conference call, and over the last month, they usually get on a call about once a week. In that time, sometimes they are talking about teams, not as much early on since not a lot of matches have been played, but certainly over the last couple of weeks there has been a lot more discussion looking at teams and what they are doing. But, they are having conversations throughout the whole season, discussing everything from lineups to any issues anyone is running into throughout the season.
One thing about this committee, being that the sport is still somewhat regionalized, our committee members get out and see a lot within their own region. Definitely talking with our coaches is always helpful because they live it day to day, but our committee members are pretty good about getting out there and seeing things as well.
This is the only sport where selection is truly regionalized and when you look at the Top 10 teams in the most recent AVCA poll, six of the Top 10 teams are from the Western Region. How does that play into the selection process, when at maximum of five could come from a region?
When this championship started three years ago, we didn’t have 69 teams playing, so there was definitely a focus on trying to continue the ability to grow the sport and having the regional selection process has allowed for that. Teams still feel like there are opportunities and those kinds of things.
Tradition has shown so far, that those two at-large teams have come from the West Coast area. I think it all comes down to looking at who they have played. And the teams have done a much better job over the last year or two of playing people from the other region. They are going and playing in tournaments here or there, so a Florida State may be playing a USC or things like that. That helps us continue to grow the sport overall and as teams keep adding there is going to be more and more opportunity for national selection, I think.
Has expansion been talked about as the amount of teams continues to grow nationally?
There has definitely been discussion about it. I think it is more about continuing to look at it, keeping an eye on it and monitoring it, but yes , that has been a goal… to continue to expand the bracket and number of teams continues to grow. Because, as we have all seen, beach is volleyball is one of the fastest growing sports right now and the opportunity to continue to provide those experiences for student-athletes is what this group wants to do. They are definitely monitoring along the way.
Is the NCAA selection committee at all tied into the Pairs Championship?
The Pairs Championship, we as the NCAA Committee do not have a part in that process. The AVCA and USA Volleyball, I believe it is, put that together. We don’t participate in the process. The NCAA does not sponsor a pairs championship. Similar to how the AVCA sponsored this beach championship before the NCAA Championship got started, that is probably the way that it works now with the pairs championship.
When this started, the focus was on the team and trying to grow the sport and give multiple opportunities. It is a team sport and that is the way that it has been pushed out from our perspective.