Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Proposed College-Community Split

By Andy Marmer

Community and college teams playing against one another has long been a controversial subject. For years there have been cries at various degrees of volume to separate the two divisions, and USQ’s strategic plan recently announced this as a goal. Augustine Monroe and Jack McGovern did a great job in laying out why college teams matter and discussing the need for some sort of separation. I'm not going to rehash those arguments, but I encourage you to read those pieces before beginning this one (and to generally read Jack's blog for some great quidditch writing).

It seems inarguable at this point that something will need to be done to separate college and community teams at some point in the near future. So allow me to jump into the ring and offer a solution. Any solution will necessarily have to address the paradoxical point that teams are, for the most part, spread out and we want to keep numbers up while also segregating teams in some way.

This summer, despite some obstacles, Major League Quidditch has proven that a separate league can work. I thus suggest this general model be applied to the regular season. Not any sort of league run entity where teams are pre-determined, rather teams should be identified by city and register with their city in one league. However, college teams also have value as Jack rightly argued. Thus there should be a separate college only league. These two leagues should not in any way be mutually exclusive. 

As an illustration here are the options available to a college student:
  1. Join a college team only
  2. Join a college team and a community team
  3. Join a community team only

I think it's a foregone assumption that community teams would be more competitive than college teams. The best teams in the country are community teams, many of the best players are college graduates and as we've seen and other authors have argued, the future is only going to move further toward dominant community teams. The best players, whether they are active students or not, would thus play for these teams. However, these players would also have the option to continue to play for their college teams. This would allow them to play more quidditch, ensure that they have incentives to help train and prepare their college teammates, and keep them in good relations with the teams since playing for a community team would not run opposed to their school team. Basically players would be able to help grow the sport with their college team, while having a community team as a competitive outlet.

Photo Courtesy of Nikki Smith Photography

Some college teams may even wish to co-register to compete against both. The University of Maryland for example may decide they want to represent both the school in the college league and College Park, MD in a community league. Importantly, there would be no limit to the number of community teams per city. Austin, TX could have four different community teams if it were so inclined. Further, teams would have complete autonomy over their rosters. More probable, the competitive schools would end up registering B-teams as college teams and A-teams as community teams. This would prevent them from competing against one another in official tournaments--separation that would remove conflicts and also ideally create incentives for further collaboration between the two sides.

A non-student. This person would have two options
  1. Play for a community team and coach a college team
  2. Play for a community team

Since former students would no longer be competing against college teams they would have every incentive to train them, and if they wanted to, alums could continue to play together as the community team. Last year’s University of Texas squad could itself be a community team, regardless of whether or not players were still enrolled. Players would, hopefully, want to prolong the sport and grow it, but could also benefit their team by training players at their alma maters or nearby schools--thus helping to create future players. Furthermore, former players would want to practice with nearby college teams since the community teams would presumably be more geographically spread and thus able to practice less often. By eliminating the competition between colleges and community teams, players could collaborate more, in a more logical way.

Non-All star community teams

The group this hurts the most is smaller community teams, that aren’t made up of all stars, but maybe players that came to quidditch later in life. Unfortunately, these teams may end up being hurt by competing against even more top-notch teams officially. The best solution might be to either pair up with a nearby competitive community team, or otherwise work with a local college. I don’t have a perfect solution for these groups unfortunately and hope there is a discussion in the future.

The logistical hurdle

While on first glance separating the leagues may appear to create fewer teams, this policy would actually increase the number of teams. Let’s use the Northeast as an example. The region had roughly 25 teams, roughly five of which were community (I’m rounding here for ease). It seems reasonable to suggest that five teams might double register (let’s just say Tufts University, NYU Thunder, Emerson College Quidditch, Boston University, and the University of Rochester) and three new community teams might pop up (Rochester United, the Rogues, Tri-State Lightning). Please note I’m dealing in hypotheticals. Now instead of a 28 team league, we have one 20 team league and another 13 team league. It would be relatively simple to run a pair of regionals and have two small-ish World Cups. Colleges might end up sending their B-team to the college World Cup to prevent too much of a drain. This could be further eased if the World Cups were on opposite sides of the country. In general, all of these tournaments would need to be planned in a way as to allow maximum attendance with regards to both timing and location. This might be a strain on USQ as well; having to plan twice as many tournaments, but the smaller tournaments, combined with increased revenues from more teams should ease that burden (I envision players only paying once, but teams paying twice, perhaps at a reduced rate). To be clear, every region in the country could support such numbers. 

To illustrate, I’ve included this table. I’m assuming that there will be an average of 10% team growth (one new team for every 10, one out of two of which is community; given recent trends this feels conservative--unless I’m reasonably sure otherwise). Suspected dual registrants are teams that have had recent success.

Number of Teams 2014-15
Number of Community Teams 2014-15
Estimate Number of Teams 2015-16
Estimate Number of Community Teams 2015-16
Proposed Dual Registrants
Community/College Size
Great Lakes
Central Michigan University, Ohio State University, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Bowling Green State University, Ball State University
University of Maryland, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, Virginia Quidditch Club
University of Kansas, University of Missouri, University of Minnesota
University of Rochester, Tufts University, Emerson College Quidditch, Boston University, New York University Thunder
Boise State University, Western Washington University, University of British Columbia
University of Miami
University of Texas, Texas State University, Texas A&M University, Baylor University
University of California Los Angeles, Arizona State University


I fully acknowledge that the above math is incredibly rough and I have no idea if the numbers work, but it appears in almost every region it would be viable to have two separate regional championships, and it would be viable to have two 40-team World Cups, without diluting competition. Remember that while only 69 teams are in the community section, these are mostly going to be the best teams in the world.

To use an analogy to succinctly summarize my point, the College League is to the Community League as NCAA Basketball is to the NBA. They still have a championship, and it’s still meaningful, and teams will still want to win it. As anyone who has ever competed will tell you, winning is satisfying. When Duke won the NCAA Championship last year, there players were elated at their accomplishments, not disappointed that they didn’t win an NBA Championship. However, the best teams self-select into a separate community division. Teams can prepare however they want, be it practicing with nearby teams, regardless of status, scrimmaging those same teams, or playing official games. However regional championships are the only way to qualify for World Cup. Community teams cannot qualify for the College World Cup. Regional Championships are far enough apart time-wise as to allow teams to compete in both. Smaller tournaments are easier to plan, and while USQ would have to plan more tournaments, they would have more resources by which to do this. 

College quidditch is essentially transformed into a training ground for players to get hooked on quidditch and ready to join the best of the best in the community division.

Photo Courtesy of Hannah Huddle

I'm sure there are other challenges I haven't thought of, but I think this would go a long way towards solving the split problem. To be successful, the quidditch community will need to buy into this idea and not seek to undermine it, but I think it's truly the best option to ensure the long-term viability of quidditch given the short-term constraints. Let's discuss.

No comments:

Post a Comment