The Mid-American Conference will make major changes to its postseason format for several sports, including eliminating postseason tournaments in eight sports, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In men's and women's basketball, the MAC also will move to a 20-game conference schedule, eliminate divisions and have reformatted tournaments.
A University at Buffalo athletic department spokesperson confirmed to The News that the MAC’s member schools have been informed of the changes, but declined to comment on the changes in future tournaments, which will begin in the 2020-21 school year. The changes were first reported by WTOL in Toledo.
The MAC will eliminate postseason tournaments in baseball, softball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, women’s lacrosse and field hockey. UB fields teams in softball, women’s soccer and men’s and women’s tennis.
The MAC said in a release Tuesday that conference champions will be determined by the regular season in field hockey, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, men’s tennis, women’s tennis, women’s lacrosse, softball and baseball. There will be alterations in formats for nine other championships: eight teams for men's and women's basketball, four teams for volleyball, three-day championships for men's and women's swimming and diving, two-day championships for men's and women's indoor and outdoor track and field and two-day championships for men's and women's golf.
The MAC will eliminate its first-round home games in the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, and the top eight teams in the regular-season standings will advance to the conference quarterfinals in Cleveland. Four men's and four women's teams will no longer reach the conference tournament.
The MAC also plans to eliminate its East and West divisions in men’s and women’s basketball, and will play 20 conference games instead of 18. Previously, teams would play each of their five division opponents at home and away and then eight games against opponents in the other division, playing every team once and two teams twice. The new format for the 20 games has not been released.
Baseball and softball will also move to 30-game regular-season schedules. Football will not be impacted by regular-season or postseason changes by the MAC.
"The Mid-American Conference established a working group to explore efficiencies in sports operations across its 24 sponsored sports," the MAC said Tuesday in a statement.
"Every student-athlete will compete for a conference championship and earn an opportunity for participation in NCAA postseason competition. MAC member institutions will continue to operate consistent with NCAA Division I FBS regulations."
In a statement obtained by the News that was distributed to MAC member schools, the conference elaborated on the decision to revamp or eliminate postseason tournaments, citing financial implications from the pandemic.
"As a result of the financial crisis brought on by the pandemic and disruption to the economy, it became apparent for the need to consider new competitive paradigms," the statement read. "The focus was on reducing costs in alignment with institutional mandates, consistent with institutional priorities and principles of equity and diversity.
"The changes being implemented affects scheduling formats, postseason championship formats in select sports, and the elimination of postseason championships in select sports. Additionally, reductions will be made in operational expenditures for select championships.
"The plan is intended to extend four years beginning with the 2020-21 academic year and will be evaluated as the economic situation stabilizes and improves."
Among the factors in the financial challenges are a decreased distribution from the NCAA.
The Board of Governors voted to allocate $225 million to 350 Division I schools in June following the cancellations of the basketball tournaments and winter and spring championships. That distribution is less than half its planned total of $600 million.
UB Athletic Director Mark Alnutt told the News last month that he estimates at least 35% of the standard distribution UB receives from the NCAA, which is about $600,000 to $700,000, will not be available.