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All Relays to Be Taken Out of the NCAA Championships!

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  • All Relays to Be Taken Out of the NCAA Championships!

    . . . at least if Papa Bear has his way {Track &Field News April 2006, p. 6.}

    For those who haven’t read it yet, he argues that the relays create “too many schools [who] go out of their way to fill the relays with pure 100 and 400 guys” and, with so few scholarships available, third- and fourth-string sprinters are getting scholarships that would have been going to field event athletes.

    He concludes, “I can’t help but think that this phenomenon is playing a significant part in the U.S.’s shocking loss of field-event medal-share at the Olympics and World Championships.”

    I hadn’t considered the idea, but I agree on one condition: We admit that the NCAA Championship is a meaningful all-star competition and not a meaningful team competition – thus the need for an NCAA Team Competition the week prior to individual nationals where winners of the four major conferences are invited as well as four other at-large teams. This allows a real team competition where teams actually go head-to-head with one another in all the events – and where the relays CAN and SHOULD be included.

    (Please ALSO see “Track Needs More Real Contests” {T&FNews April 2006, p. 52})

  • #2
    When I saw the headline I thought, "He's totally mental". Then I read it, and understood his viewpoint.

    I'll play your "Team Championship" game. First off, which are the four major conferences? On the men's side it's obviously SEC/Pac-10/Big XII/Big Ten, but on the women's side you can make an argument for the ACC being a better conference than the Big Ten.

    How do we determine the four at-large berths? With very little team scoring, we're looking at decisions make by strength "on paper" instead of from actual meet results. Or is this a vehicle for promoting scored meets?

    Do we cut out the 10k and decathlon in this team championship? If so, and if scheduled tightly, and if the men's and women's meets are held separately, we could get the running events done in 2 1/2 hours or so and have a wonderful TV package. . .

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    • #3
      If there is any relay event to go, I would pick the DMR (Indoor's) because the rest of the world does not compete in it (unless they are at USA Universities) much.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Mighty Favog
        When I saw the headline I thought, "He's totally mental". Then I read it, and understood his viewpoint.

        I'll play your "Team Championship" game. First off, which are the four major conferences? On the men's side it's obviously SEC/Pac-10/Big XII/Big Ten, but on the women's side you can make an argument for the ACC being a better conference than the Big Ten.

        How do we determine the four at-large berths? With very little team scoring, we're looking at decisions make by strength "on paper" instead of from actual meet results. Or is this a vehicle for promoting scored meets?

        Do we cut out the 10k and decathlon in this team championship? If so, and if scheduled tightly, and if the men's and women's meets are held separately, we could get the running events done in 2 1/2 hours or so and have a wonderful TV package. . .
        I pretty much agree with everything you've said. The ugly part would be the by-committee determination of the at large teams (unfortunately there are just too many conferences to make a play off work.)

        No 10k, no decathlon and, I would add, no single athlete can compete in any more than two events (at the Team Champs). This prevents the abuse of top athletes who will need to be not too tired for the individual championships and creates more focus on the entire team -- after all the very best collegiate teams only send up to 1/3 of their conference starting line-ups to the NCAA Championships as they are now run -- giving a very skewed view of who has the "best" team. It also prevents great individuals from being abused at the NCAA Individual Champs since there's no incentive to run them to death for points.

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        • #5
          When it comes to medal counts at the Olympics and WC, there are 4 medals that the USA is favored to win gold in...men's and women's 4x400m and men's and women's 4x100m (due to botched exchanges, this isn't always the case). The foundation and development of our sprint strengths are in the NCAA T&F system. A vast majority of the great relay runners at the elite level gained their experience from running relays at the collegiate level.

          Here is a question...

          Why must we destroy/eliminate something that works, in hopes of improving something that "might" work? Nobody complains about Stanford having too many distance runners...

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          • #6
            Q: did you read my whole column? I'm not advocating destroying anything; just removing one race from the calendar. Yes, the collegiate system provides our great relay strength. But the meets of March, April and May provide all that's needed in that department for "developmental" purposes.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Quarter Horse
              A vast majority of the great relay runners at the elite level gained their experience from running relays at the collegiate level.

              Here is a question...

              Why must we destroy/eliminate something that works, in hopes of improving something that "might" work? Nobody complains about Stanford having too many distance runners...
              1) he's only suggesting eliminating the 4x1 and 4x4 in only one meet -- they would still be run over and over and over during the season;

              2) the elite level runners who end up making the Oly & WC teams would still be the stars of their college teams and would not be hurt by this idea; and

              3) I'm not sure I agree that the Stanford example works since they don't run the 4x1 mile or 4x1500 at the NCAA meet and thus schools don't need to gear up in that department at the expense of other athletes (on an aggregate level.) (Though you probably could argue that cross country does this.)

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Quarter Horse
                Nobody complains about Stanford having too many distance runners...
                Although it wasn't the subject of my column, I'm equally appalled at programs that recruit third- and fourth-tier distance runners at the expense of field eventers too.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by gh
                  Q: did you read my whole column? I'm not advocating destroying anything; just removing one race from the calendar. Yes, the collegiate system provides our great relay strength. But the meets of March, April and May provide all that's needed in that department for "developmental" purposes.
                  I understand your point but from an event interest point of view I think the relays are the best part of any meet. I would add more if it were up to me.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Mighty Favog
                    How do we determine the four at-large berths? With very little team scoring, we're looking at decisions make by strength "on paper" instead of from actual meet results. Or is this a vehicle for promoting scored meets?
                    Actually we could use this idea to significantly spice up the dead period between the conference championships and the NCAA Individual Championships (a period of 4 whole weeks right in the middle of collegiate T&F's most exciting period!) by making the Regional meets mean something for teams.

                    Let the winners of the Regional meets be the four additional teams who qualify for the National Team Championship. If they also won one of the four big conference meets, then make it the second place team in the Regional meet that qualifies.

                    Seems to me this does three things:

                    1) it makes it possible to move the 4x1 and 4x4 to the Team Championship and out of the Individual Championships -- a practicality that makes it possible to improve "the general good of the U.S. sport" that is outlined in gh's "from the editor" article referred to above (since the 4x1 and 4x4 won't be eliminated from the meet as it now stands because they are too popular and entrenched);

                    2) it solves the problem of teams stacking up on just one area to win a championship -- like the example of Stanford used above where the program focused almost entirely on distance running. As the meet is now run a team could mathematically win with just two athletes by taking first and second in three events (unlikely I realize but currently the impetus for the specialization going on in many programs to the detriment of more well-rounded teams); and

                    3) it prevents teams from taking a legitimate third in their conference (has happened many times) but going on to win the NCAA "Team" title.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Dutra
                      Originally posted by gh
                      Q: did you read my whole column? I'm not advocating destroying anything; just removing one race from the calendar. Yes, the collegiate system provides our great relay strength. But the meets of March, April and May provide all that's needed in that department for "developmental" purposes.
                      I understand your point but from an event interest point of view I think the relays are the best part of any meet. I would add more if it were up to me.
                      In a world without scholarship limits (or at least with reasonable limits) so would I. My concern is with the big picture of the U.S. sport as a whole.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        cands1:

                        The conference meets that you are talking about taking place that early do not apply to all of the country. The timing of those meets would be fine up here -- if they were held indoors. Adding the regionals has had the result of cutting some of the few general meets that are help up north.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by gh
                          Originally posted by Dutra
                          Originally posted by gh
                          Q: did you read my whole column? I'm not advocating destroying anything; just removing one race from the calendar. Yes, the collegiate system provides our great relay strength. But the meets of March, April and May provide all that's needed in that department for "developmental" purposes.
                          I understand your point but from an event interest point of view I think the relays are the best part of any meet. I would add more if it were up to me.
                          In a world without scholarship limits (or at least with reasonable limits) so would I. My concern is with the big picture of the U.S. sport as a whole.
                          As is mine!! And right now (looking at the big picture), a majority of American T&F success (and fan interest) lies with the sprints: 100m, 200m, 400m, hurdles, relays (both) and a few throwing/field events.

                          I have no problem with schools wanting to specialize and spend scholarships on certain events. I hate to pick on Stanford, but let's use them as an example again. Let's say we "force" them to give up a few of their distance scholarships and put it towards field events. Who's to say that they have a field event coach that has the expertise to develop an athlete capable enough to compete and score points at the NCAA meet? Is it right to take away Stanford's #6 distance runner (who may score at the NCAA meet) and replace him with a thrower that may not score? That decision should be left up to the school's athletic director and head coach.

                          Besides, I like when a track meet comes down to the 4x400m to see who wins the Team or meet title. That's when we see some our best 4x400m performances.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Quarter Horse
                            Besides, I like when a track meet comes down to the 4x400m to see who wins the Team or meet title. That's when we see some our best 4x400m performances.
                            Then you must HATE the current set up.

                            Going back to 1992 on the men's side (as far back as I have records) how many times has the 4x4 decided the team title at the NCAA meet?

                            Answer: just ONCE, in 2001, Tennessee was tied with TCU at 49 points with the 4x4 left. TCU had no 4x4 team in the final so all Tennessee had to do was carry the stick around four times, which is what they did, taking last place in order to receive the coveted one point. Where's the excitement in that?

                            In fact if it's head-to-head competitiion that gets you excited, in the 2005 NCAA meet Arkansas ( who took 1st) faced Florida (who took 2nd) in only 3 event finals (out of 21) – the 200m, 1500m, and 4x100m;

                            In the 2004 Men’s Outdoor: Arkansas (1st) faced Florida (2nd) in only 2 event finals (out of 21) – 110m Hurdles and 4x100m.

                            That's why it's better to move this relay to a real team competition and reduce the incentive to stock up on 400m specialists to the detriment of field eventers.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              If each school was limited to 3 athletes in each event at conference, regionals, & NCs would that encourage well balanced teams?

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