Following a nationwide trend that has included a ban on tech suits at low level age group meets in Southern California, the NCAA has outlawed technical racing suits at dual meets.
The NCAA has defined a “technical racing suit” as one that has bonded seams, instead of stitched seams, and a spokesperson says that they are working on generating a list of approved suits.
With collegiate budgets being strained across the country, including the recent cut of the North Dakota swimming team, this will be a welcome development for many athletics administrators. These suits often run upwards of $200 or $300 each, and some are only good for a few swims before wearing out.
“Clemson put a $55 million slide into their football facility last year, and they won the national championship,” one associate athletic director told us. “So every dollar we can save on sports like swimming will help us reach our goal of being the most successful athletics program we can be.”
According to the Washington Post, schools in the so-called “Power 5 Conferences” increased athletic facility spending by 89% from 2004-2014.
As far as the competitive impacts, one coach from the Big Ten we spoke to on the condition of anonymity said that he welcomed the opportunity to level the playing field.
“That school up north would always show up in $400 suits, while we’d have our swimmers race in board shorts,” the coach said. “We’re trying to teach our swimmers a lesson about mental toughness, but it’s hard to explain that to our athletics director when they look at the final score.
“Tech suits aren’t the point. We want our swimmers to know that it’s important for them to learn the fundamentals of losing dual meets now. The more races they can lose now, the better their technique will be and the better they’ll be prepared for Masters’ Swimming when they’re older.”
As for the suit manufacturers, they said that the move won’t impact their business model significantly.
“We usually give discounts to college teams for free anyway,” one account rep said. “We make most of our money from age group and summer league meets anyway. We’re working with USA Swimming to continue to make cuts for meets more and more challenging so that our suits become more and more of an asset to young swim families. We’re just happy that we finally have official validation from the NCAA that our suits do, in fact, make swimmers faster.”
The ban officially went into effect on April 1st, 2017 but won’t have any impact until the college season starts in the fall.
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