The following was written by content writer Matt Gonzalez (UNL). Throughout the history of the NCDA, there have been a variety of methods used to determine who the best team in the league is. The league has come a long way from the power rankings of its early years to the current hybrid system of the Gonzalez and Champ systems. One thing has remained constant though, there have always been critiques of the rankings systems. What if there was a simpler solution? What if there was a way to track an undisputed best team at any given time?
Thus, the concept of the College Dodgeball Championship Belt is born. A lineal championship belt, one that only exchanges hands when one person wins a head-to-head matchup, is used in sports like boxing and mixed martial arts. What would the history of the NCDA look like if this is how the top ranked team was determined?
The Early Years (2003-2007)
Just over 20 years ago, on March 9, 2003, Ohio State and Kent State faced off in what would become the inaugural NCDA game. While much of what happened during this event may only be the stuff of legend at this point, one thing is certain: OSU came out as the victor. They took the belt home to Columbus, where it would sit undefended for two years. The first time OSU would get the chance to defend their belt was the first NCDA Nationals in 2005. It was here that OSU would successfully defend their title nine times, including against Kent State in the first NCDA National Championship game. The following year, Ohio State would continue their reign, going undefeated through the 2006 season. Again, they capped off their undefeated season with a win in the National Championship game, this time over newcomers Grand Valley State University. Ohio State looked like they were poised to continue their dominance throughout the 2007 season, that is until Grand Valley avenged their loss in the National Championship game. This marked the first time the Championship Belt would exchange hands, and the last time it would leave the state of Michigan for many years to come.
The Michigan Era (2007-2019)
After someone had finally wrestled the Championship Belt away from Ohio State, it seemed that it was finally time for parity in the league. However, the belt had just made its way from one dynasty to another. It found a new long term home in Allendale. Between Nationals in April of 2007 and the Michigan Dodgeball Cup in February of 2010, GVSU defended the title a total of 30 times. This included the first overtime game in the history of the Championship Belt over Delta Community College and wins in the National Championship Game over Ohio State and Saginaw Valley State University.
Over the next nine years, the title would rarely leave the state of Michigan. Central Michigan University won the Belt from Grand Valley, and until Nationals 2019, a Michigan based team held the belt for all but 92 days. Grand Valley held the belt for most of this time, winning seven NCDA National Championship games. Over the history of the league, GVSU has played in nearly 60% of the total games where the Championship Belt was up for grabs, with an overall record of 191-22 in these games. However, Central Michigan, Saginaw Valley, and Michigan State also contributed to the Michigan dominance over this time. During this time, Kent State, Kentucky, and James Madison all held the title briefly, with JMU reigning the longest, from October 21, 2012 through January 13, 2013. The 2019 National Championship game would finally bring about the end of the state of Michigan’s reign of dominance. Towson took down Grand Valley, nearly 12 years to the day that GVSU defeated OSU to take the belt to Michigan for the first time.
A New Era (2019-present)
The 2019-20 season brought about a new era in the history of the Championship Belt. Despite being cut short by the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, five different teams held the title throughout the season: Towson, James Madison, Ohio, Miami, and Ohio State. This was a record high up to this point, with Ohio University retaining control of the belt before the season was cut short. Once games started up again at the start of the 2021-22 season, it didn’t take long before another team won the belt for the first time, with Ohio losing their first game of the season against Cincinnati. They held the belt until Nationals, with Grand Valley once again taking the belt home from Nationals with a win against Michigan State in the National Championship game.
The start of the 2022-23 season saw the possibility of a return to the era of Michigan dominance, with GVSU successfully defending the title 4 times before losing it to James Madison at this year’s Pink Out. Since then, Akron, Ohio State, and Cincinnati have all held the title this season, with OSU taking it home from the War tournament earlier this month. Already, this season has tied the 2019-20 season for the most teams to hold the belt in a single season. At this weekend’s Miami Madness tournament, Ohio State will have to defend the belt three times, against newcomers University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign, Miami, and Ohio. If any of these teams win the belt from OSU, they would help break the record of number of teams to hold the belt in one season. Can Ohio State defend their title this weekend, and if so, can they once again finish the season with the belt in their possession?