This past Wednesday, the NCAA Division 1 Council tabled a vote to approve a split fall-spring season for men’s soccer. The vote called for a change to the men’s current fall college soccer season and split the season into fall & spring season with a proposed championship in June. The prior vote on this issue was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, it is delayed yet again. The ultimate beneficiaries of these changes would have been student-athletes and fans alike.
The plan, called the ’21st century model’ by proponents, would have allowed colleges to recruit players who otherwise were going to professional soccer academies. Under the tabled proposal, players would have gained similar developmental experience in college. As it stands now, college players have matches for three months starting in late August and finishing in late November. Then, teams play Spring soccer matches which are essentially exhibitions. So, D1 soccer teams do not actually play competitive matches for nine months of the year while packing an unhealthy multiple games per week into the current tight fall schedule.
As cited previously, we at LetGoDU fully support extending the current fall soccer season into the spring. The proposal would consist of thirteen games in the fall and pause around Thanksgiving before picking back up in the spring with nine more matches before the postseason. They would end up playing a similar number of matches as they currently play but exclusively in the fall. The College Cup would fall between lacrosse’s Championship Weekend during Memorial Day and baseball’s College World Series. The split season would also put playoffs and the championship in spring weather – a solution to low-attended Cups in inclement fall conditions – and allow a week break between the semifinals and final instead of the current one-day rest.
ICYMI, here's some new reporting and analysis on the NCAA soccer split-season proposal, a potentially transformative reform which the NCAA Division I Council will vote on in April. https://t.co/YsOsqryFFT
— Charles Boehm (@cboehm) October 11, 2019
The endlessly delayed proposal would be a positive for the following reasons:
- Same number of games for student-athletes per school year
- Less weekday travel
- Cuts down on multi-match weeks
- Fewer injuries with fewer games played per week according to the NCAA’s own study
- Longer development and training period for student-athletes
- Less class time missed
- Better fit for possible professional development and can compete for recruits with the academy system
- Year-round coaching, training, conditioning, and nutrition
- Improve the fan experience with more weekend games, better weather and better quality on the pitch
The only downside is facility availability for some schools – not including DU – and approval of the model may impact current training and conditioning staff who are split between fall and spring sports. This could be a problem for DU but can be managed effectively. The tabled proposal does not include women’s soccer, but it should. NCAA studies show women’s soccer players experience just as many injuries as men and would reap the same benefits from such a schedule change. Recruiting against academies continues to put Denver and other sides at a distinct disadvantage.
This is an opportunity lost to improve the game for student-athletes and fans. But, of course, this is the NCAA and any positive change is going to have to survive plenty of unnecessary massive obstacles.
Top photo courtesy of Denver Athletics