Daktronics, the company that manufactured the timing system at the Liberty University pool, has released a statement regarding the faulty equipment that caused timing errors through Thursday morning’s session at the 2018 ISCA Junior National Cup hosted there. The statement doesn’t share many details, but sources at the meet have filled in the gaps between what the statement says.
The Statement from Daktronics:
Liberty University has alerted us to an issue with the aquatics timing system at their venue. We understand that accuracy in timing for these events is imperative at all levels of competition and have worked directly with the university to determine the cause of this issue and implement a resolution. The issue caused a delay at the beginning of events between the horn going off and the timer starting. Liberty University and the International Swim Coaches Association (ISCA) were properly following directions in setting up the system for the ISCA Junior National Championship Cup.
A short-term resolution has been implemented to the existing equipment to ensure accuracy for the remaining events of the meet. Daktronics will be sending new horn starts to replace the affected product at Liberty University. In addition, we have communicated with the officials to establish the corrected times for the previous events. Daktronics will continue to stand behind Liberty University to provide the necessary customer support.
A representative from the company was on hand at the meet on Thursday. The issue is reported to have involved a miswiring of the timing boxes that both control the communication between the starter and the swimmers. For those unfamiliar with starting systems, the microphone has a button on it that controls the starting sound that begins the race, and that electronically triggers the timing system to begin. The internal mis-wire of the starters box, which has a hand-soldering manufacturing process, was causing an approximate .39-second delay in the start of the timing system, which was making times for races clock .39 seconds faster than they were actually being swum.
This same effect can be caused by a the microphone being plugged in to the wrong socket of the starter’s box, but meet organizers say that this was not the case at this week’s ISCA meet. Instead, an internal miswiring in the microphone caused a similar effect.
The problem was seen in 2 of the 3 microphones that the new Liberty University facility uses, making it impossible to determine which microphone was used at which meet. That’s significant because Liberty hosted an NCAA Last Chance Qualifying event in February where 5 female swimmers earned qualifying times for the NCAA Championship meet. 3 of those times, even if they were .39 seconds slower, still would have been fast enough to earn an invite to NCAAs, while 2 would not have been. None of those 5 swimmers wound up scoring individually at NCAAs.
That same last-chance meet was declared not “bona fide” competition for the men’s team from East Carolina because they were the only men’s team competing. The error with the timing system this week validates the NCAAs requirement to have multiple teams competing at a meet, because while not a perfect fix, it does create an environment of oversight for results.
Daktronics’ statement says that they will “continue to stand behind Liberty Uniersity to provide the necessary customer support.” The statement also implies that Daktronics feels comfortable that they know how to adjust the times done with the faulty equipment, and coaches were reportedly told on Friday morning that .396 would be added to all swims for the 1st two days. USA Swimming tells us on Saturday morning that their times people are still working on it and have been coordinating with the rules chair, Daktronics, and the meet site for 2 days to come up with a decision.
Updated: Daktronics told SwimSwam on Friday afternoon that they “believe this concern to be isolated,” but that “to ensure…best product performance and customer experience, they are further investigating and will reach out to customers directly if needed.” They also say thata current inventory has been checked and is “performing correctly.”
Update 2: the latest information is that the error was in the starter’s box, not the microphone.