Monday, April 26, 2010

Would a Regional System Really Be That Bad?

Most of the comments in the last week agree that even if the “conference champs with B cuts” isn’t your favorite idea, we need to look at getting away from, or at least rethinking, our whacked out selection formula that Joe Pabst Blue Ribbon the sports fan and your Athletic Director will never understand.

When I say, “regional system” I know that since you are all swimmers, your first thought is probably the same as mine: “No one is going to support an idea that forces us to taper for a conference, then a regional, then nationals!” We all at least understand the concept of the regional system enough to understand that it means we have another step in the process, and for swimmers who meticulously plan tapers to peak at the right time, that is a scary prospect. What I am asking is for you to consider whether the benefits outweigh the negatives. It works on several levels.

If we were to divide the country up into regional meets and invite everyone with a B cut to those meets, we could let them all duke it out head to head to see who really deserves to be at the big show. Teams could pay their way to the regional and the NCAA would only pay for the final meet. The regional would be a part of the national meet, the same way the regional is considered a part of the national tournament for other sports. This way, everyone with a B cut is a “national qualifier“-- in fact, we would only need one cut.

The regional system addresses the concern that if conference champs with B cuts are allowed, teams might try to migrate to another conference for an easier chance at an automatic berth. It might also get rid of the idea that a team in a weaker conference gets to coast in to the meet, (as Texas is accused of now in the 3 team Big 12,) the same way individual swimmers might be able to do in the weaker mid-major conferences. Especially with the recent announcements of the possible realignment of the major conferences, we need to be aware of the effects this has. In the regional system, we could throw the conference alignments out the window during the post-season and assign teams to each region based on what would be the most even and fair.

In the regional system, we would be creating an “Olympic Trials” type atmosphere in that the stakes are high. If you don’t get the job done that day, your season is over. In this format, we might not be contributing to parity nearly as much as if we were allowing conference champs, but at least no one can say the small school kid didn’t get his chance. He was part of the “national selection meet” by participating at the regional and he raced those guys in person. Face to face. He had his legitimate shot.

The regional system would automatically get rid of the relay “loophole," simply because there would be no “bonus swims” just because you are there. Let them put whoever they want on a relay. No one swims an individual event unless they earned their spot in that event at the regional.

We would have to decide how many regional meets to have and how many swimmers we would want to move on to the big show in each event. We would also have to decide if we would want to take any more swimmers based on times to fill to a certain number. For example, I would prefer to see six regional meets. 5 per individual event qualify from each region, and then we take the next 5 fastest times to choose who gets in from the 6-7-8th places that are left in the regional final. That makes 35 spots at nationals, which equals the number who qualify for the diving events. Remember, diving already has a zone system that is very similar to this. For relays, I would like to see 3 from each regional to make 18, and then the next two fastest.

Those “next fastest times” would have to be times from the regional. Just like the others, you earn it that day or stay home. I would not be opposed to allowing swimmers in the B final, who missed the top 8 in the prelim, to take one of those “next fastest” spots even if he is 9th place at the regional. He would not have access to the automatic berth of a top 5 place, but he could still take a spot if he swam a fast enough time.

Why have a B final at the regional? I think that the regional should be scored just like any other championship meet. Why take that excitement away? Winning your regional should mean something too.

It is hard to do a cost analysis to know how many should qualify and how many relays to take, but it doesn’t really matter. The numbers could be worked out later. I would love to see more than 35 get in if it is not too outrageously expensive. I would like to see more like 48 individuals and 24 relays, but dollars are probably too much of an issue. Of course, with the new 10.8 billion dollar contract they just signed with CBS and Turner, the NCAA could probably afford to help us expand the meet. Right?

Some of you might also appreciate this aspect of it all if you were one of the unlucky swimmers who has been left hanging in this way: swimmers would know if they qualified immediately on that day! No more leaving swimmers to work out on their own, hanging in limbo for weeks before they know if they even have another meet to swim at! How stupid has that part of our system been! “Hey, you keep working out just in case while your teammates are all partying to celebrate the end of a great season!” That is torture! In a regional system, we know who is in when the dust settles that night!

Back to the issue of stretching a taper over conference, regional and nats… Has anyone ever asked a track coach how they manage that? Many of the swimmers who would potentially earn a spot have hit their B cuts in dual meets or December invites, and everyone will be in the same boat in that they will all have to decide for themselves how much rest to give their swimmers for the conference and regional. I think that risk ups the stakes a bit, wouldn’t you say? I think that would make it more interesting.

No matter what you think of the current system, you have to admit that there is some value in exploring this option. No crazy formula. No bonus swims. No one is left out of the post-season because we would have one Q time to reach the regional. No one leaves feeling they did not get a fair shake. Coaches are smart. They would adapt, and their swimmers would adapt with them. With a regional system, we are not addressing parity as much as in the “conference champs with B cuts” idea, but it would be easy to place some kind of roster limit, which is an idea that was brought up several times in the comments.

Mid-majors would have a fair shot because they would get to actually race the people they need to beat to get in, we would eliminate some of our loopholes that contribute to our lack of parity at the big meet, we would be nearing a more accepted method of qualification, and we just might have a shot at earning a few more fans from outside our fishbowl.

It is at least worth thinking it through. Lots of details to work out. Sound off below.


  1. I dont really see what is accomplished with this? How do the mid-major swimmers get more of a shot? Either way it is just the fastest getting in. It doesnt seem to make a difference. I guess they get to see who they are racing but swimming isn't a sport where you directly compete against other anyway.

    Also this would completely marginalize the top tier conferences where people are gunning for NCAAs. They wouldnt have to rest to get B cuts and with "regionals" 2 weeks away and ncaas 2 more (or however it is scheduled) they couldnt afford to rest. It would be conference meets with every team looking like Arizona.

    Also, your soluton to the taper problem is that they will figure it out. Well we have had our current system for however many years and coaches still havent figured it out. Look at the percentage of season best times at NCAAs, especially guys outide the top 8. It isnt that high. If you are 22 and you go your time you score. And you are planning to make this even worse?

    I also dont get your dislike of bonus events. If you have no problem with the swimmer being at the meet (be it for a relay event or a indiviual) why not let them swim other events where they are at least decently competitive? What is the harm here?

  2. Another potential problem would be mid-major swimmers fully tapering to make the NCAA meet and Major swimmers not tapering enough and missing out of NCAAs.

    I like your thinking but I also think it is near impossible to change the system. The NCAA isn’t even thinking about it.

  3. I think the previous anonymous posters where what we have call 'whinners!"

    I dont agree with b-cuts myself, they reward meritocracy.
    I dont like that less talented athletes are taken to the meet because of relays.
    I believe the idea of this meet is that it is "the fastest" swimmers in D1.
    Taper or not is part of the game strategy. Sometimes you hit it, sometimes not.
    NCAAs is a big meet with big nerves, sometimes athletes choke.

    I think this is a good start Viking

    We have a very long season in swimming, so what is two or three more weeks. This means our swimmers stay in shape more of the year. Regionals should actually be a part of NCAA 'tourney' kinda like quarter finals in b-ball.

    how does track and field hand it?

  4. "Taper is not part of the game strategy"

    How can you take yourself seriously??? Taper is absolutely part of the game strategy in almost every level of swimming. At the top level, conference championships are won by teams who taper and then don't do nearly as well at NCAA's (PAC 10 is a great example of this). Outside of a few top teams, almost everyone shaves and tapers for their conference meet to help their team win. This is when most swimmers are in peak performance condition, so wouldn't it make sense that those who are fastest at their peak should make the NCAA meet?

    Suggesting that the selection process should be based around which swimmers are best able to taper multiple times rather than which swimmers have the potential to be the absolute best at their peak is an insult to the sport. Every pool is 25 yards, and there are almost no variables depending on location. Track and field may have different windspeeds on any given day and can even have tracks made out of different materials, so there may be a need to have a regional qualifying to put everyone on the same playing field. But in swimming this is not the case.

    While you may have a point that swimmers qualifying on relays may not deserve to be at the meet more than the first person to not qualify in any given individual event, the current system for the most part ensures that the fastest swimmers are selected to go.

  5. he said "taper OR NOT is part of the game strategy.". and he is right.

  6. It is no mystery why swimming cant step up as a major sport in this country. The USA is falling in the world ranks fast. We have a DUI-pothead-selfish-jackass as our champ. Child molesting coaches. A governing body that cares more about swim suits rather than child/swimmer development and safety. Then to top it off we have a large number of static yahoos that think it is all dandy and nothing needs to change.
    It wasn't that many decades ago that the USA had to stop sending 3 athletes for each event just to give other countries a shot at the bronze medals. We have way more participants than any other country and we can barely compete with countries with 1/3 of our population.

  7. If the USA had to face California for medals, California would win! We should just follow them. They are getting rid of swimming and going to polo.

  8. Most other countries don't seem to be doing anything significantly different from USA swimming. While a little off topic from the ncaa topic, what changes could we possibly make to make swimming popular in the US? The fact of the matter is, people here just simply don't care about swimming. Most people are much more interested in Basketball, Baseball, and Football. Even with some kind of plan to "raise the stakes and drama" I doubt the general population would care anymore about the sport than they do now. Obviously some people will disagree, but I can't see swimming ever becoming major sport here.

  9. "I guess they get to see who they are racing but swimming isn't a sport where you directly compete against other anyway."

    ummm, ya know what? you're right! we all oughtta just save our money and send in our times. Virtual championships are gonna be the wave of the future when our sport is cut to the point that the few schools who have teams won't have a budget to fly to the championship!

    Seriously? Maybe that is why Joe Pabst Blue Ribbon can't understand us. Have we really devalued head to head, high-stakes racing to that point? I say if the fastest are gonna get in anyway, why not let them step up and prove they are the fastest, face to face!?

    Are you worried that a faster swimmer might get beat by a slower one at a regional and not get his "rightful" place at the show? Isn't that the nature of racing? If he was the faster swimmer, he wouldn't get knocked out. right?

    I have an idea... Josh Schneider: if you are out there listening, uhhh... I really think you need to give Nathan Adrian his medal back. I mean, really... who in the hell do you think you are? I have a spreadsheet right here that says that he is faster, so, quit being such a baby. Just give up the medal and be a big boy. You know you don't deserve it.

    Seriously... The Olympic Trials would be the most boring show on earth if our Olympic Committee used some kind of selection formula instead of a real race. The trials are one of the most exciting events we have. Even if we could build a better Olympic team with a spreadsheet, it would not be worth taking the "event" away. It is spectacular in and of itself and we need more events like it.

    I know I am coming off as harsh here, but I think the regional system has some merit. It might not contribute as much to parity as the "conference champs" system, but it is pure and fair, and it includes every B cut qualifier into the "national meet". If we are going to keep the show so exclusive, then this has A LOT of value in the big picture.

  10. At the biggest stage obviously there needs to be head to head. But to make it to that level? Why no have them do it face to face at "regionals"? because it causes all these other flaws which I outlined. I still don't see the point of adding this. it seems the major advantage you are stating is that people can claim that they made it to "national" when really they didnt. They made it to regionals. So what is accomplished?

    And you didnt address any of the other points I had. This completely diminishes big conference championships. No one will be tapered because u can't taper for 3 meets in a month and be sharp at all of them.

    And your solution to tapering of just figure it out? I dont want to see even more people adding time at NCAAs. it is already hard enough to make the meet and perform.

    Also I still don't get your hatred (maybe a strong word...) of people swimming bonus events. That seems to be where your whole issue comes from. Your solution still has the same swimmers there (with maybe a few extra because you have magically expanded the meet) but then you don't let the people swim bonuses, to undo the injustice of the people swimming bonuses being slower than the people who just missed getting invited. But what does that accomplish?

    Also the point of another poster about costs is another good one. You know better than I, but how much does it cost to send say 10 guys to a another meet with 5 nights in a hotel, airfare, food and new suits? Would this added cost hurt the mid-major team more than it helps them?

  11. If a team wants to place priority on a conference meet, that is a decision their coach has the right to make. In the system we have now, that is no different.

    Plus, there is a difference between "tapering" and getting a swimmer "race ready." some teams now put more focus on their conference, and some put more on the dance. that is part of the game. I think that risk serves to make the sport more exciting.

    the regional is a part of the "national" in other sports. MSU's softball team got a "national" ring for making it into the "regional." it is a big deal, and better than being excluded. ya know?!

    and, I don't hate the whole bonus event thing. really. it is a nice idea. BUT those relay only swimmers take away from the head count, which makes a meet that is already too exclusive even more exclusive (unless you are at a big school with multiple relays). The problem is, the teams who are getting those swimmers in don't think it is too exclusive: they are the ones getting their 3rd stringers in over faster kids who might have earned it if the relay swimmers didn't count against the total athlete cap.

    and the cost: some of those teams are already scrounging up an equivalent amount of cash to take a small group to a last chance meet somewhere to get a deeper B cut. the mid-majors won't be spending the same kind of money on a regional that they do on their conference. some, but not enough to break this idea.

  12. I guess I just see this regional as a replacement for conferences really. No one would care about conferences. While now many teams it isn't the focus it is still the primary place people get their cuts, meaning fast swimming. If you can't get cuts people wouldn't be primed to swim fast. For the major conferences this is really a big lose as those conference rivalries are the history of the sport. For the mid-majors I can see it as an advantage as they get to effectively have a conference meet with the big boys or whatever.

    In terms of relay only swimmers: are you still inviting relays with this system? if so how does this change the issues you present? if not, it seems a convoluted way of getting there.

    In terms of cost, while I am sure many do spend that money it is likely only for a few swimmers, while this would be more swimmers, likely for a longer time and with a higher likelihood of having to fly, so seems would definitely represent a significant cost increase. Plus, a program can justify survival without last chance meets, but you couldn't without paying for regionals.

  13. for two of my four years of college swimming, the Missouri Valley Conference was actually in December. it was important, and B cuts were earned there, but it was not our full taper meet. We focused on the National Independent Championships. I am not saying that the big conferences should do move to December, (although many schools do rest for one then,) but I don't think the conference meet will be less important with a regional system. The team race will be just as important. The individual achievements can be prioritized differently if needed. rivalries will still be in place. plus, if the new conference restructuring goes through, the history there will be shaken a little. conference alignments change all the time.

    relay swimmers would still go. they just wouldn't count against a total head count because in a regional system there would be no athlete cap. the cap would be on how many qualifiers in each event, which makes more sense for a lot of reasons. in the regional system it doesn't make sense to allow people already there to have the extra swims. the "conference champs with b cuts" idea does.

    also, mid-majors aren't going to complain about the cost of participating in the national "regional". and they also have conference meets that are important to them and have tradition as well.

    I am glad you are bringing up these points. coming from a mid-major, my perspective is going to be different from others... but everyone's voice needs to be heard or real solutions can't be worked out.

    keep 'em coming.

  14. I see it very hard for a team to have 3 fast meets (2 is already too much for many teams)in a 1 month span or whatever the schedule creates. This means that teams would have vastly different preparation for the meets making the competitions just a test of who sacrifices there later season goals more. I am not sure I see much fun in that. maybe the solution here is to make it in december where teams could likely give themselves a decent rest and still swim fast in the end but does this really help simplify our sport or accomplish making things more fair?

    But the relay swimmers to count against the individual. Even if there wasn't a number cap NCAA still knows how many swimmers they want to invite and are going to be factoring the relay swimmers in when they decide how many people to invite per region or whatever. The reason we have 250 people or whatever instead of a hard line of 12 relays and 22 lines is that NCAA wants to set the limit beforehand for whatever reasons (and you are right, setting up the specific limits would be much easier, but in the end, not a significant difference would be made). I also don't see the harm of allowing invited swimmers B cuts even in this system. With only 25 people invited per event, and there is no reason for this number to increase, without the increased funding, 16th place is going to get significantly than it is now due to missed tapers and the like.

    I still am confused as to what this accomplished other than allowing more people to say that they went to nationals. It doesnt get more mid majors to the real meet and just makes NCAAs slower.

  15. Does anybody have any knowledge of the Texas High School system of selection for the state championship? I think they have a sectional and regional leading up to the state meet. It sure looks like there would be several tapers leading to the championship.

  16. There are some things that we might just have to disagree on. I don't really think it would be slower at the show. every team is already weighing out how much rest to give their swimmers at the meets leading up to the big one.

    I just feel that the current system makes things too top heavy. It helps to make our sport like an alien language to the average sports fan. And the exclusivity is something that is not really good for the sport in this day and age. we are fighting for survival.

    changing the NCAA system is something that can be done to make positive changes. Nothing will ever change if there is no place to have new ideas heard.

    Maybe all the big brains who make the decisions will actually read this stuff and stop to think for a second. "can we really do something good for the sport as a whole by changing the selection process?" They might come up with some other system entirely... but at least they will know that us swimgeeks are out here watching and criticizing when we see things are wrong.

    who knows? I am not the smartest guy in the world of swimming. I know that. I am not saying that my ideas are golden. I am saying that enough people are disappointed that it is worth letting everyone plead their case. It is worth it to step back and take a look at it. It is worth speaking out and giving every perspective to be considered.

    If you have gone back and listened to Jack Steck's interview... there is a part that says that "if you ask the right people, they will say everything is fine. But it is not fine." We need to make our sport more valuable and more exciting than the others.

    Even when we are out of our financial hard spot, schools will be finding excuses to cut programs to get to the minimum number of teams the NCAA forces them to sponsor. Money will always be shifted to priority sports to keep up in the arms race. We have to do things that make our sport come out ahead when we are weighed out against track, and tennis, and all of the other non-revenue sports. That is the race we have to win. It sucks, but that is where we are. We are losing way too often. I think we have a responsibility to make any changes we can make, no matter how small, to help keep college swimming alive.

    Sure, we can disagree on a lot of stuff. But please don't stubbornly stick with a system that is not without flaws. It is worth talking it through and exploring other options.

  17. When we are able to educate Joe PBR on the value of hard work, dedication and what makes our sport exciting then we have a chance at this. The fact of the matter is, Joe PBR runs the NCAA. If you put a swimmer/swim coach at the head of the NCAA, there would be more done to get some of the hardest working, smartest and loyal kids in your Ath. Dept. to keep their program. People in Australia get it because it is a country completely obsessed with water. Other countries value swimming more because they are not the richest country in the world with instant gratification machines dominating their lives. They continue to have to work hard everyday just to survive which is why, whether they swim or not, take pride in a hard sport like ours. Combined with insane national pride Joe PBRs can start to comprehend and we are in the spot we find ourselves.

    Off my soap box and onto the problem. The season is long, with plenty of time to get all these meets in and do well. Truth be told, this will put a greater emphasis on swimming in the summer, making sure you are in shape when the start of college season rolls around. Like SV and others led on, why not spread the meets out and give each their emphasis. If the coaches are good, the swimmers are good this should not be an issue. If this is what we train for, why can't we test it! (Side note, SV too many ! in the first half the article, stop yelling. I can read you loud and clear.)

    You can have ALL conference meets on the same weekend, 2nd weekend in February. That should be far enough from training trips to get a decent rest or just shave going into the meet. Many of the best swimmers do this already. Regionals is two weeks later, end of February and NCAA is at the end of March. One months time between regionals and NCAA is enough time to get it together and swim fast again.

    As far as regionals, taking top 5 and then inviting outside of that you will probably end up with the same people if you just took the top 35 in each event. Regionals sounds exciting and if we can come up with a system to get it right, then I am all for it.

    My proposal:
    *I would like to see an uncapped meet overall but team rosters capped at 15 with no more than 3 divers. Divers take the top 35 or whatever it is they do.

    *Each individual event you invite the top 32 under the one cut we have (no A/B cut, about 1/2 way in between?). Take the top 16 relays for each event. There is your invited swimmers.

    *Now, in order to help justify taking relay only swimmers you allow those who are under the time standard the ability to swim. This is basically the same system now, but expanded/uncapped to fit more of the fastest swimmers in. Those who earned the right to be their on a relay get rewarded to swim the event they have the cut in but are outside of the top 32. Since there is no cap, no one is losing a spot to a lowly, slow relay only swimmer (see me in 2000).

    *More importantly, this does not add a meet to the season so people can put emphasis on Conference Champs and NCAAs still. No increase in cost or extra fundraising, no more school missed, no need to rest three times in two months. Basically everything all the anti-regional, pro-fastest-swimmers-only could ask for. I think...

  18. Thank you Erik, for being forward thinking and throwing out ideas that could make this work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Now check out today's post and let me know what you think, especially about John Leonard's proposal for the CSCAA.

  19. Joe Pabst Blue Ribbon and Sarah Palin are lame!!!

    If the NCAA gets a hold of the postal meet idea swimming is done.

    I live swimming 8 hours a day at the NCAA/Sr Nat level and I think it is boring, but then look at golf. No more boring a sport to watch. We need a black superstar!

  20. "Now check out today's post and let me know what you think, especially about John Leonard's proposal for the CSCAA. "

    Where is that at?


    it was posted yesterday. if you click the banner at the top (the south park looking viking guy) it takes you to the main page where the newest stuff is posted.

  22. Haven't read all of the comments, but I basically agree with the comment of the first poster. I'm not sure this would solve the original problem. It would solve a few other problems, like Texas being able to coast through Big 12's, but I'm not sure it would really create any more parity. It will simply do the same thing that we have now, which is allow the fastest 25 or so swimmers in each event get in, only it will shuffle those 25 swimmers around a bit maybe (mostly amongst the major programs still though, because frankly, that's where all of the fastest swimmers are!)

    I think you can keep costs down and allow more mid-majors an opportunity by going with the system that I've mentioned in a previous post, which is namely that you create essentially a "regional" (but only one of them), but only conference champs, or top 2 or 3 in each conference, with "B" cuts who haven't already qualified under the old standards to swim at it. Not perfect, but I think it's more workable than this idea.

    Again, not saying this is a BAD idea. I think it just loses sight of the original dilemma, which is creating parity. Texas, Stanford, Auburn, Michigan, etc. will still qualify 14-18 swimmers every year with a regional, and Western Arkansas St. still won't qualify any. Still gives no motivation to swim at a mid-major (or a weak Big 6) program, rather than a big one. And then you have to deal with the political garbage of gerrymandering the regions.

    I think in this instance, we need to look towards Occam's Razor with the simplest solution often being the correct one. Simply limit roster sizes, both at NCAA's and in general.

    The ONLY reason I don't agree with limiting roster sizes at NCAA's is that it kind of takes away from it being the ultimate-team meet. You won't win the National Title without a LOT of good swimmers under the current system. Limiting roster sizes would moreso allow teams the ability to dominate with a few top swimmers. There may be a way to counteract this, by expanding the number of scoring places, perhaps? Thereby ensuring that, even with 14 roster spots, it will still take at least 8 or 10 scoring swimmers to win the NCAA title?

  23. We've gotta remember the bottom line here. The AD's are never going to approve a plan that costs them more money, especially if it doesn't really give their swimmers any better of a chance at NCAA's. Especially those AD's that want to SAVE swimming, because they know that the more money the program costs, the more their hands are going to be tied when it comes to making decisions on which sports to cut.

    A regional plan that costs teams more money is going to make it easier for AD's against swimming to cut the programs, and harder for AD's for swimming to save it.

  24. how many D1 schools got shot down this year.. with almost no notice. Who cares about the champs meet. The AD's and the NCAA governing body don't care about swimming. However, polo is adding big time. Polo is not being cut at these schools where swimming is being routed. Arguing meet ideas is not going to save our sport.. the AD's nor NCAA will ever approve or move forward on it.

  25. Just as swimming cut itself loose of AAU in the 70's.. which seemed like suicide. We now must consider plans to do the same in college/high school.

  26. this will be the last yr of the ncaa I track regional 'system'. coaches/athletes hate it and it really cuts into performance and is way too expensive (keeping kids on campus, per diem, extra travel days, etc).

  27. who posted this? is there any proof to the legitimacy of this? What are they replacing their current system with? is it the athletes and coaches choice.. or are the ADs just cutting down another non-revenue generation Olympic sport???

  28. it was the decision of their coaches association. they'll go back to the 'old' way of qualifying for ncaa's (e.g. times/marks achieved during the season). no cutting of t&f, only their qualification procedure for outdoor.