The Mid-American Conference is canceling postseason tournaments beginning in 2021 for multiple sports and changing the postseason format for men's and women's basketball. The MAC announced the changes hours after commissioner Jon Steinbrecher confirmed to WTOL.com the massive decision that will help the conference cut costs as the pandemic threatens the landscape of college athletics.
The sports that will no longer have a postseason indefinitely are baseball, softball, men's soccer, women's soccer, men's tennis, women's tennis, women's lacrosse and field hockey. A basketball postseason tournament will still be held but all first-round home games will be eliminated. Instead, the top eight teams from the regular season will automatically advance to Cleveland for second-round play at Quicken Loans Arena. The conference is also eliminating divisions for men's and women's basketball and will expand to a 20-game conference slate in the regular season, expanding from the previous format of 18 games.
"The pandemic and resulting financial issues play into that," Steinbrecher told WTOL. "As the financial situation changes, it will give us a chance to re-evaluate."
The changes go into effect starting with the 2021 season and will be in place for at least four years, Steinbrecher said.
It's just the latest ripple effect from the pandemic as conferences and athletic departments brace for the financial impact and fallout in coming months and years. Already we've seen prominent college coachestake pay cuts to help soften the financial blow of the health crisis for many athletic departments, while some have outright cut programs, as Cincinnati did last month with soccer.
The Associated Press reported last month that the MAC was one of five conferences along with the American Athletic Conference, Mountain West, Sun Belt and Conference USA to ask the NCAA for relief related to the pandemic on behalf of all Division I schools, which included a request to relax requirements regarding financial aid, average football attendance and scheduling, and the minimum number of sports a school must sponsor.