Everywhere sports fans turn, it seems like more teams are being allowed to compete for titles. The NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament will now feature 68 teams, to match the expanded field the men have had for a decade. The NFL, MLB and NBA have all added additional playoff teams to their respective postseasons, giving more cities hope that they could be on top when all is said and done. Consistent with the trend, it is looking like NCAA beach volleyball and ice hockey will soon be following suit.
The Division I Competition Oversight Committee is in favor of increasing the beach volleyball championship bracket to a total of 16 teams, effective in 2022. This is a pretty sizable increase, considering that the first four years of beach volleyball championship tournaments have only featured eight teams. It’s a relative young sport in terms of NCAA longevity, but this supported expansion speaks to the level of interest and promise it shows in the United States.
Similarly, the committee is also in favor of an 11 team bracket for the Women’s Ice Hockey Championship, also effective in 2022. Ice hockey has also featured an eight team playoff historically. We usually don’t see sports opt for an odd number of playoff teams, but ice hockey’s playoff would be reconfigured to support the proposed new total. The top five seeds would receive byes in the first round, leaving the bottom six qualifiers to play for their playoff lives in round one.
While changes to both sports’ playoff formats have not yet been officially approved, the committee’s support makes it close to a certainty that both will pass. The Division I Council will vote on the expansion for both sports on December 15th. The beach volleyball championships are actually open to teams from Divisions I, II and III, given that it is still a relatively new NCAA offering.