Attention IAAF Diamond League, USATF Championship Series, and other marketers and purveyors of track and field meetings. The NCAA DI Championships/Sports Management Cabinet (there’s a mouthful) announced February 17th that the 2015 and 2016 DI NCAA Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships will be contested on alternating days to better serve the viewing public, both television and on-site.
“Through collaborative efforts we now have a unique opportunity to enhance the championship experience for the student-athletes and fans as we continue to move the sport of track and field forward,” said Gina Sperry, the chair of the Men’s and Women’s Track and Field Committee and associate athletics director at the University of Rhode Island.
Whataya know, somebody out there is actually thinking about track and field presentation — most likely TV, which controls all it touches. According to the press release committee members were unanimous in their endorsement of the new format, and were moved by the logic forwarded by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association that the new alternating days format would make the meet easier for fans to follow, especially team scoring. But the committee also emphasized that alternating days will also shine a more focused spotlight on each gender to better showcase their talents and performances.
Men will compete on Wednesday (10 June) and Friday, the women on Thursday (11 June) and Saturday. This will provide a rest day for each gender, which could further assist in elevating performance, as well.
As could be expected, not everyone is a fan of the new system, but I have long been an advocate for new formatting in post-collegiate track and field. Individual event staging that showcases talent, but doesn’t connect either events or athletes to one another, offers no perceivable stakes (much less significant ones), and doesn’t amount to anything at the end of the day, has proven to be detrimental when trying the build a sustainable fan base.
The next eight NCAA T&F Championships will be contested in Eugene, Oregon at Hayward Field. Let us see how the first year under the new system plays out, but congratulations to the NCAA for addressing this serious issue in a simple but proactive way. Professionals nota bene.