MCLA Automatic Qualifiers and At-Large Teams
The MCLA DI and DII Men’s Lacrosse Championship is a 16-team, single-elimination tournament. Each of the ten conferences will receive an automatic qualification for each division if they maintain the MCLA policy of at least six (6) qualifying teams per division in a playing season. The remaining teams for the tournament are selected by an at large process by a diverse committee approved by the Board of Directors at each summer meeting.Primary Factors for Selecting At-Large Teams
The MCLA Selection Committee employs criteria specified in the MCLA Bylaws. When selecting teams for possible at-large berths, primary factors considered when reviewing teams’ won-loss records and strength of schedule are (in priority order) as follows:What’s to Like?
1. Just getting pen to paper is such a monumental step forward for the MCLA. No longer do we have the perception of a group of individuals operating with no set of guidelines. The committee likely had them from the outset, but just illuminating the process to this extent gives every coach, player and administrator a feeling that everyone is operating with the same knowledge as they prepare for the season.
A team must play a minimum of 8 games against different Divisional opponents during the regular season to be considered for selection and to be eligible for their conference’s automatic qualifier. All Division I teams must also play three distinct Out Of Conference (OOC) games versus Division I opponents and Division II teams must play two distinct OOC games versus Division II opponents to be considered for an At Large bid.
– Must have played eight (8) MCLA Divisional Games.
– Must have played a minimum of three Out of Conference contests
Once a team has qualified under these policies the committee will then look at teams based on:
– Body of Work – wins and losses throughout the season
– OOC Games – quality of opponent
– Record versus Top 25 and Top 10 teams as based on the final collegelax.us regular season poll.
– Record versus teams outside the top 25 final collegelax.us poll
Secondary Factors for Selecting At-Large Teams
If an analysis of the primary selection factors listed above does not result in a decision by the committee regarding at-large selections, the following secondary criteria are evaluated (although not in priority order):
– Head-to-head competition.
– Results against common opponents.
– Results against teams not under consideration.
Ranked opponents are those ranked at the time of the selection process only (the final collegelax.us regular season poll). Conference postseason games are included.
Once selected, teams will be seeded based on committee input. Teams are selected first to the tournament through either AQ or AL and then a second process begins of seeding the qualifying teams. The committee will use various polls (collegelax, laxpower power rankings, lawpower strength of schedule), travel commitments from the current season, and overall season results.
The committee will, when possible, avoid intra-conference match-ups in the first round. The committee will only avoid these match ups if they feel it would not diminish the overall structure of the seeding.
Will these alleviate questions when the 2011 selections surface? Of course not. The NCAA has much more specific criteria and there are still gripes, although they have become fewer. At least a team left out of the mix can go back over the criteria and pinpoint where it fell short.
2. The document is incredibly vague when dealing with some issues, even in the wording. Instead of using “winning percentage,” the committee opted for “body of work.” Instead of delineating exactly what determines non-conference strength, they used the broad term “quality.” I went back and forth about whether this ambiguity was a good thing or a bad thing. After thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that the vagueness was the right decision for the MCLA.
The upcoming year will be just the third season with the committee structure, and instead of hemming themselves in with specifics after such a short trial period, the committee has allowed themselves wiggle room via interpretation. This wouldn’t fly in the varsity world, but the NCAA has had decades to fine-tune its process. The association’s operation is still in its infancy, so why would it try to build Rome in a day?
There will undoubtedly be loopholes that pop up in the coming years from this set of guidelines – I would have like to see them mandate the “must have a winning record to be eligible” rule – and they’ll have to space to do that without compromising the core tenets of the selection process. Assuming this is a living document, allowing for precedent and amendments, this is exactly what the MCLA needs at this point.
3. I also wavered on whether I liked the idea of incorporating polls into the criteria. Coaches polls, such as the collegelax.us rankings, not only react to current events at a glacial pace but also trend toward giving established teams a discount. Computer polls, such as LaxPower’s, are useful, but are also often flawed (to wit: even after the D-III national championship game, Tufts finished No. 6).
But the polls are part of the history of the MCLA. It is good that the committee has kept this unique aspect intact to differentiate it from any other league. Plus, due to the disparate geographical nature of the MCLA – far broader than any other men’s lacrosse league – it’s nearly impossible to judge the field without a little help from coaches and computers. I’m on board with the polls.
4. The committee was wise to use the “travel commitment” criterion solely during the seeding process and not during selection. It is such a nebulous criterion to start with, and would be nearly impossible to quantify, considering how geographically diverse the MCLA is. For instance, which team is displaying more “travel commitment”: a California team flying to Michigan or a Florida team trekking to Colorado? For the most part, the tournament seeds itself, so this will be nearly a non-factor – as it should be.
What to Question?
1. Putting head-to-head competition into the secondary criteria doesn’t make a lot of sense. If two teams are vying for the last spot in the at-large field, is there any truer gauge of which team is more deserving than a head-to-head result? One can nuance the issue and crunch the numbers to make the favored team look better overall, but if two teams actually played, what’s left to interpret?
2. In the primary criteria, there is a stipulation that the “record versus teams outside the top 25 final collegelax.us poll” will be considered, and in the secondary criteria there is also a mandate to examine “results against teams not under consideration.”
Without delving too deep into the semantics of “record” and “results,” it would appear the committee has double-weighted games against weaker teams. Again, we must give the benefit of the doubt and operate under the assumption this is a rough draft of the criteria, but on the surface this seems like an oversight.
3. The MCLA has codified the importance of a non-conference schedule while seemingly ignoring conference or “regional” opponents. This is a dangerous guideline.
Considering that a small portion of the overall schedule is, for most teams, dedicated to non-league opponents, the association further stacks the deck against programs both financially strapped or geographically isolated by failing to acknowledge conference success.
The solution? Integrate a weighted conference or regional component into the selection criteria to compliment the importance of non-conference action. Much like the Senate and the House of Representatives combines to give each state a fair shake regardless of population, the MCLA needs to have a proverbial large-state/small-state system in place to ensure that the association doesn’t stagnate to a point where only a handful of programs are viable in May.