2017 NCAA Relay Standards: 16 Relays Would Have Been Bumped In 2016

Earlier today, the NCAA released its new set of qualifying standards for the 2016-2017 NCAA season and the 2017 NCAA Championships.

We compared the new cuts to the old cuts to visualize how much the qualifying times have changed, and you can find that story here.

Now, we’re zooming in on the relay standards to see how much the new qualifying times would have affected last year’s NCAA relay invites.

The changes are bigger in the relays across the boards than any individual event, and that fact is reflected by our finding: that 9 programs (counting men’s and women’s programs separately) that earned NCAA relay bids last season would have been cut out of the invites under the new standards.

A quick reminder on how the NCAA invites relays:

  • The NCAA relay cuts are broken down into “Qualifying Standards” (QS) and “Provisional Standards” (PS) that function much like “A” and “B” cuts, respectively.
  • An NCAA program must hit a QS in one of the five relay events and must qualify at least one individual for the NCAA meet. Then they are eligible to swim that relay at NCAAs.
  • Once a program has a relay eligible, that program can also swim any of the other relays in which it has hit a PS during the season.
  • And, if a program qualifies 4 individuals, that program can compete in any relay where it has a PS, even if that program hasn’t earned a QS in any relay.

Below is a chart that shows which programs would have had relays drop from QS to PS cuts under the new standards, and which programs would have had PS cuts drop to no cuts under the new standards.

Gender Relay QS–>PS PS–>No cut
Men 200 free relay Minnesota
400 free relay USC, Wisconsin Tennessee
800 free relay
200 medley relay Stanford
400 medley relay Iowa, UNC, Ohio State, Arizona Minnesota
Women 200 free relay Texas A&M, Wisconsin, Michigan, Auburn Florida, Akron
400 free relay Penn State Wisconsin, Arkansas, Denver
800 free relay Nevada, Arkansas, Auburn Alabama
200 medley relay Minnesota, Akron Michigan
400 medley relay Auburn, Virginia Tech Penn State, Minnesota

That leaves 9 programs (7 women’s and 2 men’s) that would have lost QS cuts under the new standards. Of those 9, 5 had at least 4 individuals already into the meet*, and would still have been eligible to swim their PS relays at NCAAs.

*The 4 individuals rule does include divers, but only divers who earned NCAA reimbursement, not divers who earned NCAA eligibility to attend the meet on their school’s dime. That’s a product of the recent change in NCAA diving selection that has caused some unique wrinkles over the past two years.

One program, the Denver women, had only a PS in the 400 free relay, but earned entry by qualifying 4 swimmers. The new cuts, though, would have kept them out of the PS cut, and so they also would not have been eligible to swim the relay at NCAAs.

Here are the programs that would have lost their relay entries at NCAAs in 2016 under the new 2017 cuts:


  • Nevada (1 entry)
  • Arkansas (2 entries)
  • Akron (2 entries)
  • Denver (1 entry)


  • Iowa (2 entries)

That accounts for 8 relays axed from the two NCAA meets.

The following schools would lost their only QS relays, but still would have been able to swim based on qualifying 4 or more swimmers and/or divers: Minnesota men, Wisconsin women, Penn State women, Minnesota women, Virginia Tech women.

The following schools would have lost one or more QS, but would have still held a QS in another relay and been able to swim all the same relays at NCAAs as they did in 2016: Texas A&M women (lost 200 free relay, had all the other 4), Michigan women (lost 200 free relay, had 400 free relay, 800 free relay, 400 free relay) and Auburn women (lost 200 free relay and 400 medley relay, but still had 200 medley relay).

This is the list of programs that would have lost eligibility to swim a single relay, though their other relays still would have qualified for NCAAs:


  • Florida: 200 free relay
  • Wisconsin: 400 free relay
  • Alabama: 800 free relay
  • Michigan: 200 medley relay
  • Penn State: 400 medley relay
  • Minnesota: 400 medley relay


  • Tennessee: 400 free relay
  • Minnesota: 400 medley relay

That accounts for 8 more relays axed from the 2016 meets, bringing our total to 16 relays out based on the new cuts.

Note: Obviously, everything in this scenario is hypothetical, because teams would have known they were swimming for different cut times. A team on the outside of the cuts would be likely to attempt a time trial or perhaps would have swum faster with a higher benchmark time to hit. This analysis is mainly to quantify how big the NCAA qualifying time changes are in perspective, rather than to project the future or to retroactively diminish the accomplishments of swimmers in the previous season.

Here are the highest-placing relays that wouldn’t have been invited under the new standards. We’ve included all finishers inside the top 20:

  • 12th: Tennessee men, 400 free relay
  • 17th: Michigan women, 200 medley relay
  • 18th: Akron women, 200 medley relay
  • 18th: Wisconsin women, 400 free relay
  • 19th: Florida women, 200 free relay
  • 20th: Iowa men, 200 medley relay
  • 20th: Akron women, 200 free relay

Of note: Tennessee’s scoring 400 free relay would not have made the men’s meet. The Vols barely snuck into NCAAs, besting the PS by less than a tenth, then dropped more than two full seconds to take 12th at NCAAs.

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About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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