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Kevin Schnepf, Published November 16 2012

Summit League volleyball tournament has different atmosphere without host NDSU

Fargo

It seemed a bit odd Friday that North Dakota State’s volleyball team was not playing in the Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse.

It seemed a bit odd that the four teams playing in Bentson Bunker for the Summit League tournament traveled all the way from Indiana, Michigan and Missouri.

And it seemed a bit odd that Bentson Bunker was not packed with fans like it usually is to watch college volleyball.

But that’s what happens when you have a league rule that guarantees the previous year’s regular-season champion hosts the next year’s postseason tournament.

In this particular instance, that’s NDSU – which failed to qualify for the Summit tournament for the first time since it joined the league in 2007.

“The home team not being there has been so infrequent, it really hasn’t been an issue until this year,” said NDSU women’s athletic director Lynn Dorn, referring to the Summit League soccer tournament being held at South Dakota State without the home team. “These are just anomalies that are happening. And if it continues, I’m sure the current system will be reevaluated.”

This marks only the fifth time in the last eight years that the home team has not been involved in the league’s volleyball, soccer and softball tournaments.

“That’s a pretty good track record,” Dorn said.

The Summit League certainly has legitimate reasons for using this model and not using one in which this year’s regular-season champion would host this year’s tournament.

Had that been the case, Indiana Purdue-Indianapolis would have been scrambling to host this week’s tournament. IUPUI didn’t clinch a regular-season title until late last Saturday.

“There is the fear of not being able to put on a quality tournament on a last-minute notice,” said Summit League commissioner Tom Douple, who recalls the days of when teams simply bid to host the tournament. “That usually came down to who was able to put up the most money.”

Like NDSU, which outbid everybody to host numerous Division II women’s basketball national tournaments.

They were able to plan for those tournaments in a short period of time which begs the question: Why can’t the regular-season champion of the same year host a quality tournament?

“The climate of Fargo has changed so much since then,” Dorn said. “To find a hotel that would save four nights lodging for three teams in short notice is a tough deal now … no matter what the weekend.”

While the upside of the current model guarantees a well-planned and well-run tournament, the downside can potentially be a lack of attendance. Even though NDSU offered students $2 tickets for this week’s tournament, the Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse has a much emptier feel this weekend.

It doesn’t seem right that teams – like NDSU last year and IUPUI this year – could miss out on being rewarded for a regular-season championship.

“This has always been a topic of discussion, and it’s a good healthy discussion,” Douple said. “If the votes are there to change it, it could change.”

Let’s hope so, especially if this anomaly becomes the norm.

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Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor

Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549