Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Signs of the 2009 Offseason -- Invitational Tournaments

Squeezing the Market
In a move that suggests the Great Alaska Shootout may follow in the footsteps of the Top of the World Classic, the Shootout's sponsors announced the traditional 8 team field will be reduced to 6 teams for the 2009 tournament. They will employ an Olympic-style pool play system, in place of the three round single elimination system (winners play winners, losers play losers) to guarantee three games to each of the participating teams. The Top of the World and Alaska Shootout tournaments have suffered from the 2006 NCAA rules change for early season invitational tournaments.

In an effort to set the number of regular season games, the NCAA simplified the method used for counting games. They also lifted the restriction on participating in invitational tournaments, allowing teams to participate in those tournaments every season. The NCAA virtually eliminated their 20+ year old approval process, the method by which they had limited the number of invitational tournaments (and indirectly controlled the number of teams which could play an expanded season). Prior to 2006, the NCAA sanctioned 10 "exempt" invitational tournaments. In 2007 there were 45 tournaments employing a variety of formats that included "single site" hosting, 2 stage regional "pod play" followed by semi-final and final play at a single site and preliminary play involving traditional (regular season) visitor-home team play followed by semi-final and final play at a single site. Pre-2006, the Alaska tournaments relied on exclusivity to counter balance limited operating budgets as they filled out their field. With exotic (and warmer and more plentiful) locations available in the continental US and just offshore, the Alaskans cannot compete.

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