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Could College Nationals Actually Happen?

University travel restrictions are ubiquitous.

Fans at the 2019 D-I College Championships. Photo: Daniel Thai — UltiPhotos.com

The first two legs of the College Series are now cancelled after USA Ultimate’s most recent announcement, but the governing body left the possibility of hosting the College Championships on the table.

Today, let’s take a closer look at what Nationals might look like if it were to happen.

Given what we’ve heard from USAU, we expect team selection to be based on the final regular season rankings. Given that all sanctioned tournaments are now completed for the season, the March 11th rankings, while not finalized for roster updates and game exclusions, give us a very close approximation of what the final rankings will look like.

We approach the team selection process the same way as the Regionals bid allocation process: give the top-ranked team in each region an auto bid, and then assign the next highest ranked 10 teams strength bids.

That yields the following Division I College Championships fields:

Men’s

UNC
Washington
Cal Poly SLO
Colorado
Ohio State
UMass
Carleton
Michigan
Georgia
Cornell
BYU1
Oregon
Pitt
Minnesota
UBC
Brown
Colorado State
Cal
UCLA
Tufts

Women’s

Carleton
UNC
Tufts
UCSD
Washington
Georgia Tech
Ohio State
Colorado
Northwestern
Columbia
Northeastern
Stanford
Dartmouth
Virginia
UCSB
Pitt
UCLA
Florida
Western Washington
UBC

The fact is, though, that even if a large events was allowed to take place in late May in Wisconsin, which seems dubious at best given current conditions and CDC guidance, university policies restricting domestic travel and/or athletic competition may render the event meaningless.

I looked up the current university guidance regarding coronavirus for each of the schools that would be invited to Nationals. Nearly every school has current travel restrictions, some of which are already in place through the end of May. Many schools have not listed an end date to travel restrictions. Here is a list, with links, to each of the current university policies.

Men’s

UNC [travel outside of North Carolina prohibited]
Washington [guidance after March 30th TBA]
Cal Poly SLO [non-essential travel prohibited through May 31]
Colorado [university funded travel prohibited]
Ohio State [non-essential university-sponsored travel barred through April 20]
UMass [waiting for guidance after April 5]
Carleton [canceled Spring sports]
Michigan [domestic travel discouraged]
Georgia [non-essential business travel suspended]
Cornell [sports have been cancelled]
BYU [domestic travel prohibited]
Oregon [non-essential travel suspended indefinitely]
Pitt [suspending non-essential travel indefinitely]
Minnesota [university-sponsored travel cancelled through April 30, awaiting guidance for May]
UBC [no specific restrictions announced, following Canadian government guidance: avoid non-essential travel]
Brown [university-sponsored domestic travel suspended]
Colorado State [club sports suspended, domestic travel suspended]
Cal [Athletics cancelled, club sports impact unclear]
UCLA [domestic travel suspended]
Tufts [domestic travel prohibited]

Women’s

Carleton [canceled Spring sports]
UNC [travel outside of North Carolina prohibited]
Tufts [domestic travel prohibited]
UCSD [athletics suspended]
Washington [guidance after March 30th TBA]
Georgia Tech [awaiting guidance after March 29th]
Ohio State [non-essential university-sponsored travel barred through April 20]
Colorado [university funded travel prohibited]
Northwestern [domestic travel prohibited]
Columbia [domestic travel suspended]
Northeastern [non-essential domestic travel suspended]
Stanford [domestic travel suspended until end of academic year]
Dartmouth [domestic travel suspended]
Virginia [domestic travel suspended through April 15, awaiting guidance]
UCSB [domestic travel strongly discouraged]
Pitt [suspending non-essential travel indefinitely]
UCLA [domestic travel suspended]
Florida [non-essential domestic travel prohibited]
Western Washington [non-essential travel prohibited through May 31]
UBC [no specific restrictions announced, following Canadian government guidance: avoid non-essential travel]

The Takeaway

Unless there is a major shift in state government, federal government, and university policies by mid-April, it would be almost impossible to imagine a scenario in which College Nationals could occur at its normally scheduled Memorial Day weekend timeslot. Even if USA Ultimate could find enough teams that were allowed by their schools to travel to Milwaukee for the tournament, would it be more than just a college tournament? It couldn’t truly be called a National Championship.

In theory, USAU could shift the tournament into the summer months, hoping for a return to normal American life by that point, but the logistical challenges would be immense — probably insurmountable.

Sadly, my sense is that we have only a 2% chance of the College Championships taking place this year.


  1. Yes, BYU could actually get invited! 

  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

    Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email (charlie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

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