Division III time standards underwent a pretty hefty drop from the 12-13 season to this one. Some folks are outraged, and some are still scratching their heads. So let’s put this down nicely- here’s what’s up in DIII.
For any newbies out there, NCAA time standards are the qualifications to make the Big Meet at the end of the year. These standards are in two sets – the automatic A qualification and the provisional B. An A cut guarantees entry to the meet, regardless of how many individuals make the qualification time. In the past, some events at Nationals have filled beyond capacity, gorged on A cuts – examples like the men’s 200 fly last year, or the women’s 100 back a few years ago. These events throw the meet out of whack.
From the Coaches
The super A cuts are supposed to help prevent that by making an A cut a far more difficult accomplishment to achieve. The biggest alteration from a coaching standpoint is training. The original function of an A cut from a coach’s viewpoint was to assure an athlete’s place on the National squad, thereby allowing a coach to train that particular athlete exclusively for the NCAA meet, skipping any shave/taper meets to have everything saved up for The Big One. However, since the A cuts have altered so drastically, they no longer serve that purpose, and in effect are – from a coaching perspective – useless. Maybe one or two athletes will make the A standards, but those athletes would have qualified anyway, and are going to be trained for Nationals regardless.
From the Viewers
To some minds, the only benefit of the super A cuts is the same benefit as could be had by simply doing away with them, as the relay A cuts were done away with. With super fast A cuts, the probability of the meet being skewed by overfilled events is drastically reduced. That’s part of the reason the A cuts were gotten rid of, too – to remove the excess of relay only swimmers at the meet preventing individuals who otherwise would have qualified from making a berth on the NCAA team. In this effect, is there any use for the A cuts in individual events at all? If you average the difference in time between the national record and the A cut on the men’s side, the difference is less than a second. On the women’s side, two seconds even. At this point, if you make an A cut, you might as well reset the national record in the process!
From the Athletes
As an athlete myself, I know I saw the A cut drops each successive year as a challenge to be met rather than an impossibility, and I knew many other athletes who felt the same. The ability to make an A cut also affords a sense of security for athletes – the knowledge that your ticket to the Big Meet is effectively punched and no matter how many other qualify either before or after, your spot is secure. I always waited until I had an A cut before writing home to tell my parents that NCAAs that year was a go. Under both scenarios – removal of A cuts or their continued existence as an average of the past three national championship times – that assurance is virtually null.
So what’s the benefit of these super A times for DIII? Well, for one thing, recruits look at things like A and B cuts to see where they might fall in a division at the national level. With times as fast as the 13-14 NCAA cuts, DIII will gain attention from athletes who may have only been nominally entertaining those thoughts previously. The choice now rests between being a conference contender at some DI school or a competitor on the national scale in DIII. If athletes from mid-majors are looking for an educational focus as well as excellent swimming, DIII is the clear way to go. And as these athletes filter down, DIII an – and probably will – just keep getting faster.
For the original swimswam post containing time standards for 2013-14, click here.