Destinations will be able to bid on NCAA championship events that have never before been open for bidding. For the first time this winter, the NCAA will have predetermined hosts for the preliminary rounds in the Division II men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, Division III men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and Division III men’s and women’s ice hockey tournaments.

Bidding is open at ncaa.org/bids and destinations have until January 25 to submit applications. Hosts will be selected in February by the individual sport committees.

“This provides an opportunity for a smaller market or markets that haven’t hosted NCAA events before to get involved, and it could lead to a long-lasting relationship,” said 129 Sports LLC President Russ Yurk, who was hired by the NCAA to serve as a consultant to manage the efforts.

Cities also will soon be able to bid to host preliminary rounds for the first time ever in Division I women’s volleyball, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and field hockey — traditional fall sports that because of the COVID-19 pandemic will have their championships in the spring.

The NCAA has decided to use predetermined sites for all of these tournaments as a way to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. Traditionally, the early rounds in all of the championships up for bid would be held at the highest seed for each round.

“This is a COVID-specific adjustment,” Yurk said. “Hopefully for the 2021–2022 school year, we would go back to our normal operations.”

Yurk will conduct a webinar on January 13 on the Sports ETA website for interested bidders and has spent the past few months at various trade shows, including TEAMS ’20 Virtual from Houston, telling industry contacts to keep their eyes open for NCAA hosting possibilities that would ordinarily not exist.

With the recent bid cycle for events through 2025–2026 completed in October, this bidding process will give cities that may have missed on events a second chance, or those who have never bid before the chance to see what the experience is about. The quick turnaround on the bidding process is to try and mitigate rapidly changing COVID-19 conditions in destinations.

“We’ll be getting bids from states that are confident in the next few weeks that they’ll be able to host us compared to if bids were awarded in November, we would have to re-award and things like that,” Yurk said. “It was definitely a positive outcome not going out as early.”

One of the keys for destinations will be location. Especially during the COVID-19 era, the ability to have teams cross state borders is important as is a destination with a following for the sport, such as the Northeast or Midwest for hockey. Basketball for both Division II and Division III is a bit different in that they are more widespread across the country but the sport committees will still want to not go too far from its traditional footprints.

“Some states are definitely more open than others,” Yurk said. “That’s obviously a huge piece of it. On the spectator front, we’re really not concerned with that. It’s honestly not a big deal if there’s no fans or whatever percent of capacity. It’s about having a safe environment for the student-athletes and being able to deliver a championship experience with good venues and good hotels.”