HONOLULU — The NCAA has expressed a willingness to expand its men’s volleyball championship tournament from seven teams to 12 in 2024, according to the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
The NCAA Division I Competition Oversight Committee wrote in the minutes of its July 13 meeting that it supported expansion in concept “given the growth in sponsorship and how the increase to 12 teams would keep the sport in line with the bracket access percentages that have been central to the review of recent bracket considerations.”
That is good news for two-time defending national champion Hawaii and the rest of the Big West Conference, whose members have had to sweat out tournament selection shows for at-large berths in recent seasons despite the conference’s primacy in the sport. Expansion in the 12-team model would increase the number of at-large berths from the current two, to six.
Long Beach State had to worry about just making it to the NCAAs after falling to host Hawaii in the Big West championship match on April 23, even though it was the top-ranked team in the country at the time. LBSU was eventually granted an at-large spot and the top overall seed, and Hawaii beat LBSU again in the national final to give the Big West a fourth straight national title.
UH was memorably snubbed from receiving one of two at-large bids to the tournament in 2018. However, the sport has grown in membership since, helping justify a larger bracket. For the upcoming 2022-23 athletic calendar, there will be 62 NCAA institutions sponsoring men’s volleyball, up from 48 in 2017-18, per the AVCA.
If the plan is finalized, starting in 2024, there would be six automatic berths — one each for the Big West, MPSF, Conference Carolinas, EIVA, MIVA and SIAC — and six at-large berths.
The NCAA competition committee agreed to formally consider the expansion in the next budget cycle in spring 2023, according to the AVCA.
“It is extremely exciting to hear that the NCAA is supporting the expansion of the NCAA Men’s Division I-II Championship to 12 teams and giving us equitable championship opportunities,” said Lewis coach Dan Friend, a member of the AVCA board of directors, in a statement. “This vote shows they are good to their word, and it is a great step forward for college men’s volleyball.”
Brian McInnis covers the state's sports scene for Spectrum News Hawaii.