Sasho Cirovski – the driving force behind a potentially historic change to NCAA DI soccer – remained stoic on Twitter after the NCAA Division I Council Meeting was postponed in early April due to the outbreak of COVID-19. This postponement delays a vote which Cirovski has championed for the best part of the decade.
The model, which has been dubbed ‘The 21st Century Model’ would essentially re-distribute the NCAA’s DI schedule across the full academic year, as opposed to the current fall schedule, which runs in a three-month period.
Cirovski has lead the University of Maryland Terrapins since 1993, and in October last year sent an impassioned and articulate letter to the NCAA Division I Council which outlined examples and benefits of the 21st Century Model. This letter, along with Cirovksi’s continued 21st Century Model campaign, has the support of over 90% of the 206 Division I men’s soccer coaches, and was co-signed by NCAA legends including Jeremy Gunn and George Gelnovatch.
On April 3, The 21st Century Model D1 Men’s Soccer Coaches Committee released a statement following the postponement of the DI Council Meeting:
We remain steadfast in our belief that the 21st Century Model is in the best interests of our student-athletes and men's college soccer. However, with so much uncertainty, we will be committed to working with campus, conference and committee leaders to adapt, plan and prepare for a timely return to action while awaiting an appropriate timetable to reconsider our proposal and vote.
That uncertainty, and the indefinite delay of the DI Council’s vote is a double-edged sword for Cirovski and the 21st Century Model campaign. On one hand, this delay provides Cirovski more time to garner more support from key stakeholders. It also provides the NCAA a unique opportunity to re-assess and evaluate their current practices. On the other, the indefinite delay will have unprecedented effect on college soccer, the NCAA and sport in general for years to come. Just how much impact COVID-19 will have is far from clear – especially given the current environment in the US – however it is fair to assume the worldwide sporting landscape will be dramatically impacted economically, socially and politically.
Despite the uncertainty, the 21st Century Model retains elements of the current schedule structure while simultaneously providing a more holistic and enjoyable experience for student athletes. The sheer volume of games in September and October each year increase the risk of injury and re-injury, as well as heightens psychological pressure on student-athletes in the critical fall semester. The 21st Century Model is far from ‘re-inventing the wheel’ when it comes to sustainable scheduling, however it does ensure college soccer is aligned with the worldwide game. By extending the period between games during the high-volume months of September and October, the 21st Century Model aligns itself with nearly all schedules in worldwide professional soccer.
Still, there are questions regarding the 21st Century Model’s potential usage in Division II and Division III, as well as in women’s college soccer too. If the model is adopted in DI, will it automatically be replicated in Division II, III and women’s college soccer?
The quality of information on www.21stcenturymodel.org proves this is far from just another campaign. From reduced summer funding, travel costs, facilities and even the weather, Cirovski’s campaign covers a wide range of factors. The level of time and effort Sasho Cirovski has put into this is obvious, the arguments are compelling and the data is clear for all to see. While the outbreak of COVID-19 has delayed the NCAA’s vote, when the time is right, the vote should only go one way.
“Adopting the 21st Century Model is a big, revolutionary change for our sport – we concede that,” Cirovski said. “But it is the right thing to do for college soccer, not just for our current students, but for students for generations to come.”