16 December 2015

The impact of the upcoming varsity/club reorganization on national championship results

USA Cycling has published a little data on the impact of the club/varsity changes coming for the 2016-17 school year. Primarily they have focused on how field sizes will be impacted. While this is an important consideration, another important thing to examine is the change to the results. Below you will find how the Top 20 results in each event would have been impacted in 2015.

My conclusion is that the proposed organization will split the quality of the collegiate field, and in the case of road,  dramatically so. At first glance, this split looks even worse than what occurs under the current "modified small/big school division structure". In my opinion, at least in the short term, this is a bad thing for collegiate cycling.

Cyclocross Nationals 2015 - "Club" Team Riders in Top 20
  • Men:  5
  • Women: 7

Road Nationals 2015 - "Club" Team Riders in Top 20
  • Individual Time Trial: 
    • Men: 15
    • Women: 17
  • Criterium:
    • Men:  12
    • Women: 13
  • Road Race:
    • Men:  11
    • Women: 13

MTB Nationals 2015 - "Club" Team Riders in Top 20

  • Cross Country:
    • Men:  5
    • Women: 3
  • Dual Slalom:
    • Men:  4
    • Women: 3
  • Short Track Cross Country:
    • Men:  9
    • Women: 5
  • Downhill:
    • Men:  8
    • Women: 5

I'll play devil's advocate and counter that over time the best riders will migrate to varsity programs because of the financial benefits of doing so. This is a valid argument and I agree that as the number of varsity programs and opportunities increase, more top riders will attend those schools. This argument is somewhat undercut, however, by the nature of universities and colleges with varsity cycling programs. The current reality is that primarily small schools with relatively small NCAA Athletics programs have been successful creating a well-supported cycling program (I previously researched this and, if memory serves, the majority of these schools have less than 5,000 students). Until varsity cycling programs are implemented across a broader variety of institution sizes and types offering the full-range of educational opportunities, many of the strongest competitors will be "lost" to club programs or simply choose not to compete in collegiate racing.

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