The SIAC is officially set to make its Men’s Volleyball NCAA Tournament debut.
The NCAA Division Competition Oversight Committee at its recent meeting approved the SIAC receiving an automatic bid to the Division I-II men’s volleyball NCAA Tournament starting in 2024.
The automatic bid was awarded to the SIAC, despite the Division II conference not meeting the two-year eligibility waiting period.
The committee opted to provide the SIAC a waiver because of the conference’s commitment to expansion after losing one of its original men’s volleyball programs. It also recognized the SIAC’s efforts at “fostering growth and diversity in a region that has had little representation” in NCAA men’s volleyball, according to the committee’s meeting minutes.
“I want to thank the NCAA for making a public investment in both growing the sport of men’s volleyball and enhancing championship access for some of its historically marginalized HBCU institutions and our 80-plus men’s volleyball student-athletes without taking opportunities away from other deserving teams,” said SIAC Commissioner Anthony Holloman. “There has been a strong push by national leaders to grow the sport of men’s volleyball, especially among HBCUs. As Commissioner, I can tell you there is a positive energy in the league and on our campuses about competing in men’s volleyball at the highest level.”
The SIAC becomes the sixth conference to receive an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament and joins the Conference Carolinas as the only Division II conferences with a berth.
The 2024 season will be the SIAC’s third season. Central State won the inaugural conference championship in 2022, and Edward Waters while undefeated in conference play to win the SIAC title last season.
The addition of the SIAC will expand the NCAA Tournament field from seven teams to at least eight schools. Six of those teams in the tournament field will be conference automatic qualifiers.
The finalized tournament field size and format, though, remains unresolved for the upcoming season.
The Competition Oversight Committee at the recent meeting requested to expand the NCAA Tournament to 12 teams. However, the committee will revisit this recommendation following a budget review and analysis.
If the NCAA Tournament expands to 12 teams, the field currently is not slated to include the NEC as an automatic bid next season.
The committee denied the NEC its waiver request to bypass the two-year waiting period for new conferences before being eligible for an automatic bid.
The NEC following its inaugural season advocated its circumstances and efforts to comply with NCAA automatic bid requirement warranted waiver consideration. The committee rejected the request citing no extraordinary circumstances that merit the waiver.
The increase to at least an eight-team field is the third time in the last 10 years the NCAA Tournament expanded.
The NCAA Tournament since its inception in 1970 had been four teams before expanding to six teams in 2014 with the addition of the Conference Carolinas. The field also increased to seven teams in 2017 to coincide with the start of the Big West adding men’s volleyball.