Update: '21st Century Model' back on NCAA docket

Two years ago after a proposal to move Division I men's college soccer to a split season was tabled following the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, NCAA Division I men's college coaches are preparing for another vote.

Web site: 21st Century Model

The good news is that the vote is on the docket for the NCAA's April Council Meeting.

But two years later, the committee spearheading the effort is starting over, beginning with a new chairperson, North Carolina head coach Carlos Somoano.

At the NCAA Division I men's open meeting on Friday at the United Soccer Coaches convention in Kansas City, Somoano presented an overview of the status of campaign and challenges that lie ahead. Only about 15 Division I coaches were in attendance. Many who planned on attending the convention were prevented from doing so following the Omicron outbreak that imposed new protocols at athletic departments around the country.

Background. College coaches believed momentum was in their favor to get the proposal for a split season approved. It had the backing of three power conferences (Big 10, ACC and Pac-12) for the legislation.

The split season would eliminate most midweek games. (A Division I men's team currently plays a regular season of 17-19 games in 10 weeks, in addition to a couple of preseason games, and NCAA postseason games, up to six.)

"We were at a point in 2020 where we were in March and Covid shut down the world," Somoano said. "We were six weeks away from having a vote, and everything was put on pause."

The current proposal is the same. The only difference that the new season wouldn't take effect until 2023-24, not 2021-22.

What's next. Somoano said work started in the fall to get the campaign rolling again.

"I had to go back and really refresh myself on all the materials and the language and how we got there," he said. "In spite of the fact that we put a lot of work into it, we have to go back and redo the majority of this process in the next couple months and redo it in a short period of time."

The challenge: many of the actors are new.

"We're re-educating and re-energizing the coaches community and the players because many of your players changed since then, if not all," said Somoano. "Administrators have changed at different schools, different AD's, committee members on the different committees that are weighing in and and taking positions have changed. So we have to reeducate a whole new group of people."

Somoano stressed that the change to two seasons is not, in selling terms, an "expansion" to a year-round model. He said it's really just a "redistribution" and "reduction" with the purpose of balancing academics and athletics.

"There are some legitimate challenges there and concerns that people have," he said, "but there are also legitimate solutions for those concerns and challenges. And over the last couple years, we've addressed them. I think there's answers for those questions, but there's no substitute for knowing what those answers are and really thinking through it."

Somoano said one of the advantages those pushing the split season now have is the experience of playing a spring season. Covid-19 shut down college soccer at most men's and women's programs in the fall of 2020.

"We did have a spring championship [in spring 2021] and it went well," he said. "So I think we can take the lessons that we got from that and try to extrapolate and say, OK, we're able to do that over two semesters and it potentially could even be better."

Photo by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire

11 comments about "Update: '21st Century Model' back on NCAA docket".
  1. Christopher Osmond, January 25, 2022 at 2:06 p.m.

    Let's also add playing with FIFA rules:  Let's stop with platooning subs, re-introduction of subs, which turns the games into track meets; and also, downward ticking clock.

  2. Wooden Ships replied, January 25, 2022 at 2:47 p.m.

    Agree. Not sure that most college coaches would want to change the way things are. Back when I was coaching (university) I didn't see many that were bothered with the way things were. I was, I couldn't stand it. 

  3. Hugh T replied, January 25, 2022 at 3:12 p.m.

    Thank you for keeping us informed of these developments.  I'm not sure many of us would be getting any of this information otherwise.  I think it is an pretty interesting ituation.

    I spoke with an executive of one of the conferences a few years ago and she said that despite some passionate support from some coaches, the change was never going to get the votes.   But now, after learning to be flexible through the COVID pandemic and the whole new NCAA constitution, maybe change doesn't look so scary.  I think the fact that college soccer has become "irrelevant" as some say has to start winning support for reform because I think coaches are going to quickly find that it is slim pickings for any real talent if players want to keep their most ambitious goals alive past their high school graduation.      

  4. Hal Barnes, January 25, 2022 at 2:13 p.m.

    Men's college soccer has become irrelevant. There wasn't a college player on the recent U-20 call up which included a 16 year old. 

  5. Mylene Moreno replied, January 25, 2022 at 2:36 p.m.

    Irrelevant to you?  

  6. Wooden Ships replied, January 25, 2022 at 2:52 p.m.

    Mostly agree Hal. If, in the USA, you're a male hoping to become professional and your skills, instinct and understanding of the game aren't already there, college isn't going to change much. There are occasional exceptions. If you're female (and there are still only 2 genders) then college is still valuable. But, on our present track, that will fade too. 

  7. william mitchell, January 25, 2022 at 3:39 p.m.

    I think its a horrible idea that doesn't factor in the student athletes.  When these players are in season, their lives are 100% consumed by soccer--practice, training, travel, meetings, video, emails, etc.   School is secondary no matter what they all say.  Now the coaches want to split the season to cover two semesters--fall and winter?  This would mean that it would be 100% soccer for virtually the entire school year for the players.  This rule would mean the season virtually never ends.  The players want to play, but also have a college experience. That is less likely to happen if they are in season for fall and winter.  I appreciate the issue about mid week games and injuries, but then start a little earlier in August then AND use the back end of the bench a bit more.  Most teams played 19 games bt 8/26 and 11/21--13 weeks.  So start 8/7 and that gets 16 games in 16 weeks by 11/21.  Bottom line, when in season, soccer hangs over the player's heads the entire season.  There will be no psych reprieve and grades, etc. will suffer if the season is extended into two semesters. (Heck, maybe ask the coach's wives--Are the coaches psychologically "present" during soccer season?) 

  8. R2 Dad replied, January 25, 2022 at 5:20 p.m.

    I believe it's proposed to be fall and spring, no? Midwest teams can't play in the winter--their fields are all frozen. Maybe you're assuming that fall training will just be repeated through the balance of the year; I don't believe that will be the case. A longer season will allow teams to train more strategically. I believe college coaches will find a way to tailor training to improve player and team performance without taking up 4 hours every day. If players think that won't work to their satisfaction, they. can always play club at their university.

  9. william mitchell, January 26, 2022 at 11:20 a.m.

    Respectfully, I think it is naive to think that teams will "train more strategically."  It will lead to more all-consuming soccer for 2 semesters  (you are right Fall/Spring).  Coaches want to win.  So, instead of pushing the players to the limit for 1 semester, it will be 2 (e.g. essentially the entire school year) which runs from August to mid Nov and then January to May.  No other college sport goes on for that long.  Yes, soccer has spring ball now, but it is much more relaxed and pressure free because no coach is getting judged on what he/she does in the spring.  If WINNING (or potential to get fired) is in play, the pressure will be constant as well.  

  10. Ric Fonseca, January 26, 2022 at 4:32 p.m.

    When I re-engaged with collegiate soccer, back in the dark years of the late 60's (after a six year absence from the pitches - three years in the military and then five in junior college) my re-introduction of the sport came to a crushing end when the then AD at then CSU Hayward declared me ineligible as I'd been going to college "too long," as he didn't take into account the three years of active military service. NCAA soccer rules, I then saw as being rather sophomoric and very pollyanish - the re-subbing, playing four quarters, the last second countdown, referees having to wear knickers with striped shirts and a silly cap, with the litanny of hand signals taken directly from the American football rule book! It was even more shocking when I arrived at UCLA for grad studies, imagine my surprise when we took the field: most of the players - at least in Southern California - were actual and real undergraduate foreign students and I must admit, had a great laugh when they took the field and had to play using NCAA rules, Yet, when UCLA advanced to the final four in 1970, it was even more of a shock to the team when one of the two-man officiating team, halted the game during the "third quarter" and insisted that one of our forwards change his shoes as the very one pair he was wearing, the soles were metal (aluminum) and would not re-start the game until he did so. Fortunately one of our subs had an "approved" pair and the same size.... game only resumed after the game officials examined the shoes, and whistled for a re-start with a throw-in instead of a drop ball... Oh heck, I could wax-on nostalgic, but forsooth, it is high time that the NCAA drop its antiquated control of the Rules of the Game and agree to play by and use the FIFA Laws of the Game. Well, perhaps some progress has been made, though as a result of these absurd NCAA rules, I've literally ceased to attend many four-year college games. in fact, I will dare say that the athletic administrators, for the most part - back in my day - were former non-soccer coaches/players, and just did not take too kindly to soccer, seeing it only as a foreign sport mostly fearful that the players would dare damage their football or baseball fields with their "metal cleats," know this was a bare fact when I coached as the first ncaa men's head coach - with all due respect - at CSU Northridge- the PE Department head was a former football coach and the AD, the head baseball coach. And so as the then game officials would say in a firm-commanding voice: PLAY ON!!!

  11. Ric Fonseca, January 26, 2022 at 4:53 p.m.

    Oh heck, I forgot to mention that the entire California Community College system, comprised a bit north of 125 campuses, field soccer - men/women - and play under FIFA Laws of the Game.  Historically, it was during the mid-or late '70s when a former UCLA graduate student, then later a science professor at a local SoCal community college, also became the soccer coach, Dan Goldman, was also a local referee in the Greater Los Angeles Soccer League and otherleagues as well as a high school official, and I MUST take my hat off to him, becasue he was instrumental in instituting the FIFA Laws of the game to be played by ALL California Community Colleges that fielded a soccer program, and I do not remember any AD's or PE dept heads (most if not ALL community college instercollegiate programs fall under the "academic jurisdiction" of PE (now Kinesiology) departments, refuse to implement FIFA Laws of the Game.  IMHO, the AD's "saw the trees for the forest," - I know because I also served as AD at my college.    

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