If you thought Super-Regionals were confusing, just wait until you read this. The Super-Regionals Plan was a significant change to the current structure, but the Conferences Plan is almost a new system altogether.
Regional lines will be redrawn to create six regions (Northwest, Southwest, North Central, South Central, Northeast, and Southeast). Within these regions will be conferences of 8-12 teams divided by qualities such as skill level, location, and willingness to travel. Regular season play will affect the number of bids a particular region will get to Nationals, and results of 24-team Regionals determine the number of bids each conference will get to Division I and Division II Nationals through a strength algorithm. Finally, Conference Championships, which will be played for the calculated number of bids to Nationals. Two bids to Division I Nationals would automatically go to each region and the remaining eight would be determined by an algorithm. The details of this algorithm haven't been worked out yet. Additional bids to Division II Nationals will we awarded based on results at Regionals as well.
Who it benefits:
1. Fans. The way this is structured would encourage meaningful games and overall excitement because the performance of teams in a given conference or region will affect the other teams in it.
2. Teams with lower budgets. They won't have to fly all over the country if they can't afford to.
Who it hurts:
1. North Central and Northeast Regions. The season matters much earlier than it has in the past and having meaningful games as early as January is a problem if you can't practice outside in the winter. The region will suffer if all the teams are performing poorly before spring rolls around.
2. Regions or conferences that get screwed by the strength algorithm. It just seems like a knowledgable committee would have a more valuable assessment of strength than an equation. This could go the other way and benefit certain regions or conferences that get lucky as well though.
The plan is still somewhat fluid, so it's hard to do much analysis, but one problem I have with it is that the incentive to perform well in the regular season is supposed to come from earning Nationals bids for your region (or for your conference at Regionals). Claiming to make the regular season more meaningful this way is saying a bit too much. Teams are supposed to get fired up to earn bids for what might not even be their team. However insignificant it seems, I do appreciate having something on the line during regular season play, which the current system lacks. The plan proposes that it will create rivalries between teams, but the change I see coming out of this would be a rise in conference pride. In terms of Nationals bids, a team in your conference winning a game would be as good for your team as winning yourself until the Conference Championships. Using power rankings instead of a committee also worries me a little, but I wont get into this because the strength algorithm hasn't been determined yet.