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.