The at-large selections of the 64 teams for the NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball National Championship always seems to cause a bit of a stir - why did this team get selected, why did that team get left out, who picks these teams, that team always gets in, etc.
Here is The Reality:
1. The team must be from one of the Volleyball power conferences - The Pac 10, the Big 10 and the Big 12 (the SEC is trying desperately to get into this group and it is because of football, not volleyball ability) - and be .500 in conference and overall. Each November, more than 15 at large selections are allocated to these conferences and sometimes the number can approach 20!
2. If you are not in a power conference, the California schools receive a number of at large bids. Just think about all the Cal State's and UC's that put teams into the tournament - most of the US has never heard of them, but the old school selection committee knows them well.
3. At large bids going to a mid-major Volleyball conference (Mountain West, C-USA, ACC, Big East, Missouri Valley) is like using the Magic 8 Ball - you never know. We constantly hear from our conferences about scheduling tougher, playing more top 50 teams, winning on the road, winning late, eating our spinach - there are a bunch of theories, but they are all bunk. For every example of someone getting an at large, there are three examples of teams more deserving not getting a bid.
4. For those unfortunate conferences that are not Power or Mid-Major, there will only be one team to get a bid - period, end of story.
Now for the Reality that is really tough:
1. Teams that have been there before, multiple times, will get a free pass to the show during down seasons - especially long standing programs.
2. Teams that are coached by a female head coach, will get the first look - the NCAA is desperate to develop female coaches in volleyball. Instead of raising salaries and support, like the NCAA did for women's basketball, they do this instead.
3. If your school/conference has an administrator on the selection committee, you are looking good.
4. RPI does not mean anything.
In the selection for the NCAA Championship, I don't think volleyball is any different than the other sports - big conferences get too many, mid level conferences are in limbo and the politics of it all should be embarrassing.