The NCAA has instituted a change that will now ban teams from the same conference from meeting in the first round of the Division III playoffs, the organization has announced.
“The Division III Management Council took the request from all sports championships committees who were unified in strong support of this initiative,” Lake Forest College (Ill.) head coach and Division III football championships committee chairman James Catanzaro said. “The football committee has been asking for this for a number of years and the approval of this provision allows us to put together a bracket that insures that a first round matchup is not a league rematch.”
Division III moved to its current playoff structure in 1999, and in that time there have been 10 first-round matchups pitting teams from the same conference, according to D3Football.com. All 10 matchups involved teams from the American Southwest Conference and the Northwest Conference.
The previous policy was born out of a desire to cut costs and prevent as many cross-country flights for cash-strapped programs as possible, but the side effect put teams from far-flung conferences in the Southwest and Northwest in playoff games against their conference bunk mates. The ASC and NWC have been among the most successful Division III conferences in the playoffs, according to D3Football.
The new change will apply only to the first round; conference opponents could still meet in the second round.
Thirty-two teams reach the Division III playoffs, with 27 bids awarded to conference champions and five to at-large teams.
The Division III playoffs begin Nov. 23 and will conclude with Stagg Bowl XLVII on Friday, Dec. 20 in Shenandoah, Texas.
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