The Arizona State Swimming & Diving program has opted to redshirt its entire roster, for both the men’s and women’s programs, for the 2020-2021 season. In essence, this cancels the team’s competitive season.
Editor’s Note: a “redshirt” in NCAA parlance essentially means sitting out a season and extending a college career by a year. With some exceptions, student-athletes in Division I are allowed to use this rule once in their collegiate career. NCAA student-athletes get 4 seasons of eligibility in any one sport, and redshirt seasons don’t count against that eligibility.
They are the first swimming & diving program to announce a move this drastic as an independent unit from a total institutional suspension of competition amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Most such cancellation announcements have been made by schools or conferences at a wider span.
They are also the first program in a Power 5 conference (Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, ACC, SEC) that has announced that it will miss any portion of the 2020-2021 NCAA swimming and diving season. SwimSwam was unable to find any other programs in a Power 5 conference in any sport that has canceled the 2020-2021 season yet.
“In March, (Vice President for University Athletics) Ray Anderson challenged all Sun Devil head coaches to find ways to make our programs stronger after the COVID-19 crisis,” says head coach Bob Bowman, who was the 2016 U.S. Men’s Olympic team coach. “This decision clearly accomplishes that goal. It promotes the health and safety of our student-athletes, enhances their educational opportunities and allows time to rebuild and refocus on performing at the highest levels of NCAA competition.”
The program is expecting the entire roster to return for the 2021-2022 season, in addition to new incoming freshmen. The school says that it can accomplish this plan within existing scholarship limits.
The announcement primarily will impact swimmers; the school had no divers expected on its roster for 2020-2021, and its former coach, Mark Bradshaw, retired from the program at the end of last season and said that he believes the school would be cutting the diving program. The school denied that.
A handful of Arizona State swimmers already sat out last season to prepare for the Olympic Games, including two-time NCAA Championship scorer Grant House. House’s absence was technically a ‘waiver,’ and incoming freshman Jarod Arroyo technically ‘deferred’ his career. Given the unique circumstances, including the postponement of the Olympic Games, there is a chance that the NCAA will grant latitude in waiving the “5 years to complete 4 seasons of eligibility” rules in these specific cases.
Arizona has been one of the hardest-hit states in the growth of new positive tests for coronavirus cases in the United States. On May 27, the state’s 7-day average of now cases was 338 – a low for Arizona, which escaped relatively-unscathed from the early days of the pandemic. By July 6, that average had risen to over 3,800 new positive tests per day. That number has been dropping over the last 3 weeks, however, with around 2,600 new cases daily over the last week after the state rolled back some of its reopening guidelines.
In total, the state has recorded 162,014 positive tests for coronavirus and 3,307 deaths. Deaths attributed to COVID-19 have risen in the month of July as well.
2 weeks ago, Arizona State laid out tentative plans for the fall semester, which included a mixture of in-person and online courses. The exact logistics for each class will be decided on a class-by-class basis.
The Pac-12 Conference, of which Arizona State is a part, has moved football, volleyball, and soccer to a conference-only plan for the fall of 2020. No plans have been announced yet for winter sports like swimming & diving.
Arizona State’s women finished 5th at last year’s Pac-12 Championships, while the men finished 4th. The 2020 NCAA Championship meet was canceled, but in 2019 the Arizona State women placed 20th and the men placed 21st at the NCAA Championships.
Competitively, Arizona State’s strength is in its rising senior class. This move will delay their expiration from the program by a season.
The Full Arizona State Press Release Is Below
Coming off an abbreviated season that included the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Championships and with the double-semester season just a few months away, Arizona State University head swimming & diving coach Bob Bowman announced – after consulting with team and parents – each member of the 2020-21 squad will redshirt and begin focus on the 2021-22 season and Olympic aspirations.
All involved parties agree this plan will allow for maximum flexibility and confidence for the student-athletes and their families in regards to their location and practice situation due to COVID-19. All members of the Sun Devil swimming & diving programs will redshirt and only train in 2020-21, with the expectation the entire roster will return in 2021-22.
“In March, (Vice President for University Athletics) Ray Anderson challenged all Sun Devil head coaches to find ways to make our programs stronger after the COVID-19 crisis,” says Bowman, who was the 2016 U.S. Men’s Olympic team coach. “This decision clearly accomplishes that goal. It promotes the health and safety of our student-athletes, enhances their educational opportunities and allows time to rebuild and refocus on performing at the highest levels of NCAA competition.”
This plan, which can be accomplished within existing scholarship limits, allows the student-athletes to enroll in courses as full-time students across all learning platforms and will allow most to pursue graduate degrees in a five-year window.
“Many of our student-athletes will now have the opportunity to pursue a graduate degree during their additional year on campus,” adds Bowman, who has coached nine Pac-12 individual champions in his five years. “This is a tremendous benefit which we are excited to offer to a tremendous team which has great academic goals.”
Added Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson, “This unique approach will provide additional opportunities for these student-athletes to pursue educational endeavors. Our goal as a department is to provide an elite student-athlete experience and this methodology will allow an additional year on campus for these student-athletes to train and achieve championship performance together, but also realize new academic goals.”
The past four months have not allowed proper training, but under the new plan Bowman knows the shifting of goals to a more realistic timeline is advantageous for NCAA and Olympic championship level athletes.
“With a renewed clarity of purpose, we can shift our focus to long course swimming and preparation for the Olympic qualifying competitions next year,” Bowman said. “We know this process will best prepare our team to excel at the highest levels of our sport and will take our program to the next level.”
With competition events normally starting in September and finishing in March, a typical swimming/diving competition schedule takes place over seven months. The stress of any cancellations and all team travel is now eliminated and budgets can be adjusted.
“We know this is our best course of action. It gives us clarity, direction and a good plan that our team can benefit as athletes and students, and allows families to feel at ease over being able to watch their Sun Devils at the 2022 NCAA Championships, which was taken away last year,” added Bowman. “Our teams and our program are in great shape. It is the summer of 2020 and some additional things have to be considered. We are very confident in this plan and know it is the best interests of our program, our student-athletes and our athletic department. Much thought went into it and we are excited to start working with a firm training calendar.”
The past season and program’s future is highlighted by Jack Dolan being named the Pac-12 Freshman Swimmer of the Year, just the second in Sun Devil history. Emma Nordin (500 free) and Zach Poti (100 backstroke) each won Pac-12 titles, with Nordin clocking the nation’s fastest time in her win. The programs combined for 18 team records last season and senior Silja Kansakoski closed out her career winning the athletic department’s Bill Kajikawa Award, presented annually to one male and one female in recognition for his and her demonstrated academic excellence, athletic accomplishment leadership and service in the community.