Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Combined D1 Championship Meet?

The Missouri State Bears just posted a “20Q” interview with two of their international swimming seniors, Ciro Sauaia and Stacey MacDonald on their athletics website. They did an excellent job, and showed a tremendous amount of pride for their school and their sport. While I love to promote my bears, it is not the only reason I mention it here. One of the first things they said in the interview was about the team atmosphere in college programs and that they wished the men and women could swim together at the same conference meet. The women are in Missouri Valley and the men are in the MAC. This ties into a current topic in the swim blog-osphere.

John Leonard, the President of the American Swimming Coaches Association, recently appeared on the Morning Swim Show to present the possibility of a combined NCAA Division 1 Championship. I was a little disappointed that the discussion in the comments section never went anywhere. Fortunately, the forums at did, and once you sift through the junior high level sexist humor, there were actually some pretty valid arguments posted from both sides. Some of the comments:

“Everyone is missing biggest drawback of a combined championship, that being a guaranteed reduction in the number of participants.”
“The NCAA meet should not be combined. Each meet has tradition and special meaning to whom ever has been there.”
“I've been on deck at plenty of combined conference meets (SECs, Big 12s) and plenty of separate meets (ACCs, Womens NCAA, Mens NCAA). I think the combined SEC meet has the best atmosphere of any. Certainly no one (outside a few narcissists perhaps) is annoyed that they have to watch women's swimmers. The fans certainly cheer loud enough.”
“Bottom line is there aren't really any venues that can hold that number of swimmers. IUPIU is the only one that comes to mind, but no one wants to go to Indy every year in march. Plus, I thought even that was crowded this summer. And face it, our sport doesn't have the pull to get a set up like they had for trials every year.”
“The only legitimate reason I have heard against a combined meet, which in fact comes from the women's side, is that the times of the men's swimming make the women's swims seem less significant and so they don't want to do it.“

In his interview, Leonard addressed the facility issue by stating that Myles Brand, former head of the NCAA was on board with the idea, and that they had already discussed having it at a temporary facility similar to the Trials in Omaha. They also addressed the idea that there would be even less qualifiers when he mentioned the idea that conference champions with B cuts might be invited to the meet and that the NCAA would accommodate by increasing the number of invitations to the meet.

In my opinion, if they can pull it off, I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t want to. The timeline would be an issue, but if they swam the prelims in 8 lanes at either end of a 50 m x 25y facility, they could combine finals in the middle. That does present a problem for the schools who don’t have a separate coaching staff for the men and the women, but most of the programs with a large number of qualifiers do.

Division 2 runs a combined four-day format and that is a selling point when they are recruiting athletes. Space is more of a concern for D1, but it could be done at Indy… at least until a feasibility study could be done to see if spending the cash on a temporary pool in a large stadium would be a wise investment. It is not like the NCAA can’t afford it. TV contracts for football and basketball have increased exponentially. Their cut has to have increased enough to trickle down and help the swimmers out some.

Come on, guys. Let’s give this topic the discussion it deserves. Give me some thoughts in the comments section. Why do you, or don’t you, want to see the combined D1 meet happen? Let’s give the big brains some opinions to chew on while they are trying to decide if it is worth the effort. Give the comments section some love!


  1. Indy is nice but think of Avery at Stanford. 2 50 Meter pools, a diving well AND a water polo/synchro swim stadium. There were thousands of swimmers at 2006 FINA Masters. The place is SO big that it could host both the mens and womens meets simultaneously!

  2. Sterne, if the weather cooperates up there, I would definitely agree with that location until they come up with more venues.

    I don't necessarily agree with allowing more swimmers in, it is fine the way it is. Allowing conference champs with B cuts would be a nice gesture, but what about those with B cuts (and faster?) not on conference champ teams? This is an elite meet, it should stay that way.

    IMO the best way to run it would be separate meets in the morning session to avoid being there all day and combining finals. Finals will run longer but you will get some great races in because swimmers will be getting more rest in between swims. That is if we are to run it combined.

    The argument for girls feeling slighted by the men's competition being too fast is a little weak. The women will still have their fans their cheering them on, it will still be loud. I know if I had the opportunity as an observer, I would like to have both meets on one weekend. That is a lot more swimming to watch without extra travel.

    As for girls not having counterparts at the meet (see UCLA). Many of those girls, if they are at the elite level, know guys and girls from other elite programs from years of competition. As a swimmer and coach you can learn a lot from other swimmers and coaches in the process of the opposite gender swimming.

    Lastly, I could see the NCAA putting more money into one huge meet than two big meets. Although you won't get the sponsorship dollars like a BCS game, you will attract more investors if the event carries twice the people. Might even get the meet on something other than The Ocho. Heck, maybe even the swimmers can get better gear for participating (see every bowl game for the past 10+ years).

    My one request if this meet goes big and gets on TV, the swimming community should be allowed to pick the commentators.

    My suggestions:
    (In the both)
    The Screaming Viking
    Garrett McCaffrey
    Craig Lord
    (on deck correspondent)
    Mike Gustufson
    (on deck coach's perspective/correspondent)
    Chris Desantis

    If we can't get this dream team together and I mean this with no disrespect to his ability and him as a person (both of which are great), no Rowdy Gaines.

  3. coachErik, I disagree with you about the number of athletes allowed in the championship. I will be writing on that later. I don't know if I can completely argue that the mid-majors get screwed by the selection process, and I don't know if the conference champ thing is the solution, but it has some value beyond just that meet.

    ...and if I am ever chosen to help with coverage of that meet, I wanna be on deck!

  4. I suppose I should clarify. I don't want the meet to become bigger based on conference champs/B cuts let in. Not to say that those athletes are not fast who get the B cuts, but an option that some won't view as taking away the presitige that is being invited and making NCs. Of course the meet could get bigger if more swimmers make the A cut and we invite up to a certain amount of swimmers regardless of how many make the A cut. If conference champs with B cuts is the only option, keep the meet as is.

    I was just hoping that we could create an awkward moment or two with the three of you in the booth. Although, two in the both and a few on the pool deck would be fun. One camera on each of you. I am reminded of the first part of your interview with R.Sloudnov where you pulled the Chris Farley bit. That would have to be worked in on Eddie Reese. Even though he is not coaching college (am I correct on this one), we would have to get Urbanacek on deck and mic'ed up too.