MANHEIM, PA – NOVEMBER 24: Middlebury stands at attention during the national anthem before the 2019 … [+] Division III Women’s Field Hockey Championship (Craig Chase/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
In what reminds some of the complaints surrounding the Division I women’s basketball tournament last March, an NCAA tournament is, once again, caught up in another facility controversy. What should be a celebratory weekend filled with the promise of winning a Division III Field Hockey national championship has evolved into a frustrating situation for all involved at Trinity College in Connecticut.
Earning their first Final Four trip since 1998 (and first ever opportunity to host this prestigious event), the Hartford Courant reported this week that Trinity College is embroiled in a dispute around fairness and equity. Members of the field hockey team and campus community claim visiting teams and fans will arrive Thursday to an “unimpressive facility”, one not suitable for such a high profile event.
The field hockey field sits next to the football stadium-earlier this year, both facilities were looking to replace and update their bleachers and press box areas. While the football stadium shines with brand new seating for 1000, the field hockey complex is left with a smaller set of new bleachers, as well as a set of older bleachers brought in for the tournament. The team lost their equipment storage area in the transition.
An online petition from a group called TrinWAL (Trinity College Women’s Athletics League) was launched, stating “The proposed plan of a stadium capable of holding a total of 1,000 spectators on the sideline of Sheppard Field (women’s) in preparation for the hosting the NCAA final four and championship turned out to be an unimpressive set of five-row metal bleachers that were set up in a matter of days. Regardless of the plans, the end product on the Sheppard side is not the same quality, nor does it provide the same spectator experience, as the Miller side (men’s),” the online petition reads.
Earlier, President Joanne Berger-Sweeney announced a Title IX audit would be conducted by an external law firm on the entire athletics program. The press release indicated the review includes: “any future changes to Trinity’s athletic fields”, and a committee of “student representatives from women’s and men’s athletic programs, staff, faculty, and administrators” will be created to help discuss and review proposed changes “with equity at the core.” There are promises to address the issue soon.
For all but a handful of sports, these post-season events are held at the highest seed, or selected years as a “pre-determined” location. Campuses who bid to host have to complete a checklist and submit it to the NCAA sport committee. Each promises full institutional cooperation to pull off an exciting event for all. It is very rare for championship sites to be relocated once awarded, even if an issue like this one arises.
A common by-product of hosting championships includes having the institution absorb the financial and labor costs of running key parts of the event. For campuses who decide to bid for post season events, the time spent by facility managers, administrators, athletic trainers and security personnel rarely receives paid overtime; instead, they often receive a pat on the back for creating a “home field advantage”.
MANHEIM, PA – NOVEMBER 24: National runner-up trophies are seen following the Division III Women’s … [+] Field Hockey Championship (Photo by Craig Chase/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
This pattern and practice needs to change, and with all NCAA bylaws and policies up for debate at this very moment, this needs to be addressed. In essence, the field hockey community is held hostage by Trinity’s facility issues. Because the tournament costs are only partially paid for by the NCAA (even though its their championship), it becomes next to impossible to move the championship even if the facilities are not up to expected standards.
In early December, each Division will have their opportunity to provide final feedback on the emerging draft. This could be the last chance to lay down markers that demonstrate what each Division most values in the coming years. Promising teams who have earned their way to the Final Four should have the chance to compete in the best possible environment.
With recommendations in hand from the law firm hired by the NCAA (which include joint/coordinated championship committees to correct issues of equity), it would seem timely to address the championship experience across all Divisions. Are meals and banquets treated similarly in Division III as compared to Division II or I? How about days off? Officials compensation? Media and streaming costs to broadcast the games? How about compensating the staff who currently “volunteer”?
NCAA revenues disbursed to Division III reflect only 3.18% of the total revenues the NCAA earns from its Men’s Basketball March Madness tournament. Of those, 75% goes towards post season championships, with the remaining 25% “supporting member schools and conferences through non-championship programming, educational resources and initiatives.” Clearly, that ratio is not enough.
As part of the great NCAA “reset”, Divisions II and III should look at who is bearing the expense and how that translates into the experience each institution wants their athletes to have in the post-season. There is no better time than now to address the athlete experiences.
At one of the few moments in history where Division II and III institutions hold a substantial voting block within the Constitutional Convention, now is the time to advocate for more resources to enhance the championship experience for all athletes.

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