DODDS-Europe realigns, shortens seasons
Stars and Stripes
DODDS-Europe is responding to shrinking budgets and student bodies by streamlining its fall sports schedule.
Tentative football, volleyball, golf, cross country and tennis schedules released Thursday by DODDS-Europe athletic director Karen Seadore reveal shortened seasons, eliminated divisions, and various efforts to slash the costs of travel to away games and meets.
The most profound changes affect DODDS-Europe’s most visible sport, football.
Last year’s three-division alignment has been trimmed to two divisions, with Division I featuring six large schools and Division II hosting the other 13 programs. As a result, DODDS-Europe will crown two champions at its European finals Nov. 2 in Kaiserslautern, Germany, replacing the traditional Super Six slate of title games with a Final Four.
Four small northern Europe teams – Brussels, Menwith Hill, Woodham and the junior varsity team from Lakenheath – will form a group dubbed the Independent League, with a champion crowned based on regular-season record. Seadore said having Lakenheath’s JV squad stay behind when its varsity team crosses the English Channel will significantly cut travel costs.
The six Division I teams – Kaiserslautern, Lakenheath, Patch, Ramstein, Vilseck and Wiesbaden – will play each other once apiece in a regular season running Sept. 14 through Oct. 19. Last year’s Division I slate featured eight teams, including Heidelberg and Bristol Academy. Heidelberg has closed, while Bristol will play a handful of DODDS opponents but is not a full-fledged member and is ineligible for the postseason.
The Division I football schools will play local national teams Sept. 7, while Division II schools begin their regular season. Each of the six Division I teams will have one week off during the season, in which they’ll play either Bristol Academy or a local national team.
Division II is divided into a seven-team north region and a six-team south region. The south region includes a combined team between close Bavarian neighbors Schweinfurt and Bamberg. Teams will only play opponents from within their region in the five-game regular season, which includes one bye week. Seadore said the consolidation of Division II and III and the intraregional-only play will slash travel costs; last year’s Division III roster included far-flung teams like Baumholder, Rota and Sigonella, requiring multiple long flights per week.
Minus the missing division, the football postseason will work similarly to past years. The top four Division I schools will play a semifinal round on Oct. 26. Eight Division II schools will play quarterfinal games on Oct. 19, and semifinals on Oct. 26. Seadore said it’s still undecided if the eight quarterfinalists will be the top eight overall Division II teams, as determined by a points system, or the top four finishers from each region.
Sigonella, a 2012 Division III semifinalist, will not field a football team in 2013. Though school populations are still in flux before doors open next week, it remains an outside possibility that other small schools will come up a few bodies short of a workable football roster.
“I do not anticipate us losing any more football teams,” Seadore said.
Though the details are still under discussion, DODDS-Europe will trim its golf and cross country travel budgets by replacing a week of the regular-season schedule with non-DODDS competition.
In golf, teams will play their local courses on Sept. 12 to determine a traveling team, then play in meets against nearby opponents over the following three weeks ahead of the European championships Oct. 10-11 in Wiesbaden. That cuts a week of travel from last year’s schedule.
That same template applies to cross country, where teams will find local or intrasquad competition Sept. 14 before launching a five-week DODDS schedule Sept. 21. Last year’s slate had six regular-season dates. The European championships will be held Oct. 26 at Baumholder.
Volleyball’s schedule emerged largely unscathed, with seven consecutive Saturdays of regular-season action –same as last year - starting Sept. 14, with the European championships Oct. 31-Nov. 2 in the Kaiserslautern Military Community.
Tennis retains last year’s six-week regular season, leading to the European championships Oct. 24-26 at Wiesbaden.