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What is The Kolas System?

The Kolas system is how the NCAA calculates which teams should qualify for the Division One NCAA Cross Country Championships. Kolas uses of a large set of criteria to determine which teams have the most "wins" or "Kolas points" to be selected as one of the 13 "At-Large" teams for Nationals.

How Did the Kolas System Get Its Name?

In a 2014 interview with Flotrack, current Louisville Head Coach Joe Franklin explained the origins of the Kolas qualifying system. During his time as an assistant coach with Butler, Franklin was on the NCAA selection committee responsible for organizing which teams should be going to the NCAA XC Championships. The selection process was done by hand and took an average of 8 hours to complete. 

Franklin was eventually approached by one of his Butler runners named Brian Kolas, a computer science major. Kolas developed a computer program that would identify which teams should be selected to the National Cross Country Championships without the time and human error of doing it by hand. According to Franklin, the computer program has not yet been wrong.

How Does The Kolas System Work?

The Kolas qualifying system is complex with multiple facets of qualifying criteria that need to be addressed. Here are the key aspects of the qualifying rules that you need to know...

There are 9 regional meets in the NCAA where teams can qualify for Nationals. The top 2 teams at each regional championship are automatically given a spot to Nationals, leaving us with 18 "Auto Locks". 

This leaves room for 13 "At-Large" teams that can qualify for Nationals by accumulating enough "Kolas points" or "wins" prior to/during the regional championships. As the NCAA gives out "At-Large" bids, they will only entertain the top 2 teams in each region that have not been selected yet at a time.

This means that if Team X finished in 3rd place, Team Y finished in 4th place and Team Z finished in 5th place, all at the same regional meet, then only Team X and Team Y would be considered for an "At-Large" bid to the national meet. Team Z would only be considered once Team X qualifies.

"Kolas points"
Kolas Points are given to teams that were not among the 18 Auto Locks, but did earn wins over those Auto Lock teams during the regular season + conference championships.
For instance, if team X placed 3rd at their regional meet, but had defeated 6 other teams that placed in the top 2 of their regional championship, then team X just earned 6 Kolas points. 

The teams with the most Kolas points will be selected for the At-Large spots.

When a team earns an At-Large bid to the NCAA XC Championships, then any team that beat them during the season will also earn a Kolas point as they wait to be selected.
Understanding the "push"
Let's say that team X places 3rd at their regional championship and team Y placed 4th at the same meet. Team Y has a lot of Kolas points and is going to be one of the teams selected to the National Championships. Team X does not have a lot of Kolas points and would probably not make Nationals based on Kolas points alone.

However, because team X defeated team Y at regionals and team Y is selected to make Nationals, team X is "pushed" into the National Championships. Why? Because any team that places 4th at the regional championships can not qualify for Nationals without the 3rd place team qualifying as well. The same can be said for 4th place vs 5th place and so on.

There can only be one "push" scenario in each region. Any team that gets "pushed" into the national meet does not yield any Kolas points to teams that beat them earlier in the season.

"A" squads vs "B" squads
In order to earn Kolas points, schools must defeat Auto-Lock teams during the season that ran at least 4 of their 7 athletes from the regional championships (known as the "A" squad). Any team that runs 3 of their 7 athletes (or fewer) from the regional championships during the regular season is considered a "B" squad.

For example, team X was one of the top two teams in their region which means that they automatically qualified for Nationals. Team Y was 3rd in their respective region and are looking to make Nationals based on Kolas points. Team Y defeated team X during the regular season which means that, theoretically, team Y should earn a Kolas point.
However, when team X lost to team Y during the regular season, they only ran 3 of their 7 runners from the regional championships. Therefore, team Y does not earn a Kolas point despite beating team X earlier in the season.

The 75% Rule
In order for a team to earn Kolas points, the meet that teams race in must be at least 75% of the championship racing distance (Regionals). Regionals are always 10k for the men and 6k for the women. This means that a men's team must compete in a race that is at least 7,500 meters (7.5k) and a women's team must compete in a race that is at least 4,500 meters (4.5k) if they want to secure Kolas points.

FREquently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: Do teams that earn an At-Large spot to the National Championships grant Kolas points to teams that are still waiting to be selected for an At-Large spot?

A: Yes. Any team that qualifies for Nationals as an At-Large selection has the potential to give other teams (that have yet to be selected) additional Kolas points. However, teams that are pushed into NCAA's do not give Kolas points to teams still waiting to be selected.

Q: Let's suppose team X is 3rd in their region, team Y is 4th, and team Z is 5th. Team Z has the most Kolas points of this group. Can team Z push in both team X and team Y?

A: No. The NCAA selection committee will only entertain two teams from a single region each time they try to pick one of the 13 At-Large teams. Team Z will not be considered for an At-Large spot until team X is given a spot to NCAA's.

Q: What happens if there is only one At-Large qualifying spot left and the team with the most Kolas points in the selection process lost at their regional championship to a team not yet selected?

A: Because there is only one qualifying spot left, neither team would be rewarded with the spot. Instead, the next team with the most Kolas points that does not "push" in any other team would be selected.

Q: Why do The Stride Report's Kolas predictions look different than the Kolas predictions that I have seen on other sites?

A: Simply put, qualifying for the National Championships is based on which teams are the Auto Locks in each region. In the weeks leading up to regionals, it is very possible that a different site might predict different Auto Locks than The Stride Report. 

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