NCAA reverses course, says no bid for SAA, MASCAC

Hendrix is playing Centre on Saturday for a share of the lead in the SAA standings. However, the SAA champion is not guaranteed a spot in the 2014 playoffs.
Hendrix athletics photo

By Pat Coleman and Dave McHugh

Contrary to the published pre-championship handbook it released a few weeks ago, the NCAA Division III football championships committee announced on Friday that in fact, the Southern Athletic Association and Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference will not have automatic bids to the 2014 Division III football playoffs.

The announcement means there will be 24 automatic bids to the 32-team playoff field, same as last season. The MASCAC and SAA remain in Pool B with the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference and independents, including Washington U. and the University of Chicago from the University Athletic Association.

By D3sports.com’s calculations, two bids should be set aside for Pool B teams, with the remaining six bids being at-large bids.

New conferences must wait two seasons before getting an automatic bid in the third, and the SAA competed as a new conference in 2012 with five teams, which is above the threshold to be an official NCAA conference. However, the NCAA determined that since the SAA did not have seven football members in both of those years, it would have to wait another year for the automatic qualification (AQ) to the football playoffs.

The SAA has AQs in the other sports in which it has seven members.

“As a conference we’re very disappointed that after being assured we had the AQ that now the AQ is not going to happen for us,” said Southern Athletic Association commissioner Jay Gardiner. “But we understand and will make sure the AQ is handled appropriately by the NCAA next year.”

The MASCAC, on the other hand, did not appear to qualify for an automatic bid under any circumstances, and it’s unclear how the conference got listed in the championship handbook. The MASCAC is a long-established conference which has been a Division III member for decades. However, only six MASCAC schools sponsor football, and the other three schools who play football in the MASCAC are affiliate members, and full members of the Little East. In those circumstances, the conference must wait two full seasons and is eligible for an automatic bid in the third season.

This is just the second season the MASCAC has sponsored football.

The NCAA’s championships handbooks have often had errors and it’s not unprecedented for a sport’s allocation of bids to change late in the season. In fact, last year the Division III baseball championships committee erroneously announced that the City University of New York Athletic Conference would get an automatic bid to the 2014 Division III baseball tournament, and when D3sports.com raised the issue, the committee announced it would maintain the bid for one year only.

The 2014 football handbook also contains this list of notable errors, compiled by members of our D3boards.com Division III community:

  • Carnegie Mellon and Case Western Reserve are listed as Pool B teams; should be listed in PAC
  • Cornell is listed in IIAC; should be listed in MWC
  • Maranatha Baptist mistakenly listed in NACC; should be listed as independent/Pool B
  • Presentation mistakenly listed in UMAC, no longer an NCAA member
  • Nebraska Wesleyan listed in Pool B, but declares itself for the NAIA championship rather than Division III.
  • Brockport State mistakenly listed in NJAC, should be listed in Empire 8
  • McMurry and Mississippi College listed in ASC, but are not competing in Division III.
  • Texas Lutheran listed in ASC, should be listed in Pool B only
  • Macalester listed in UMAC, should be listed in MWC
Dec. 14: All times Eastern
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 24, Mount Union 16
@ Woodforest Bank Stadium; Shenandoah, Texas
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Dec. 8: All times Eastern
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 31, UW-Whitewater 14
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at Mount Union 28, Johns Hopkins 20
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