Disqualified Michigan 400 Medley Relay Was Overturned on a “Delayed Call” Technicality

2024 MEN’S BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS

Day 2 of the 2024 Men’s Big Ten Swimming & Diving Championships saw a cloud of controversy hanging over the day’s final race, the men’s 400 medley relay.

Michigan’s third leg, butterflier Gal Cohen Groumi, was initially disqualified for going past 15 meters on his underwater. After a formal protest by Michigan’s coaching staff and a lengthy review, the disqualification was overturned and Michigan was reinstalled as the 2nd-place relay in 3:03.13, a second-and-a-half behind the winning Indiana Hoosiers.

Interestingly, though, the call was not overturned because the conference decided it wasn’t a 15 meter violation. Instead, it was overturned on a technicality that the call wasn’t made immediately with a raised hand – it was a delayed call – and so ultimately the appeal was successful and Michigan’s relay was reinstated. Whether Groumi ever passed 15 meters was not a part of the conversation on the appeal.

From Section 10 of the NCAA Swimming & Diving rule book:

To indicate a rules infraction, a stroke judge must raise a hand overhead with open palm immediately after the infraction.

15-meter violations are typically the responsibility of stroke judges. The judge on the near side of the pool raised her hand immediately, but the judge on the far side in the video above can be seen raising his hand well after the alleged infraction – which was reviewed by the head referee Lucy Duncan.

Multiple Big Ten coaches that SwimSwam spoke to all indicated that they agreed with Duncan’s interpretation of the rule.

The Big Ten hasn’t responded for a request for comment on the matter.

Because of the delay, the medal ceremony has been postponed until Friday evening at 5:20PM Eastern time, where it will be held shortly before the start of the finals session. Ironically, Groumi might not participate in that ceremony because he’s swimming the first event of Friday evening, the 100 fly, 10 minutes later.

Those 56 points may wind up being determinant in a meet that is currently very competitive. The Indiana men are 28.5 points ahead of Michigan, and Michigan is 9.5 points ahead of arch-rivals Ohio State at the top of the table.

Thanks to Purdue’ the only school from the Big Ten posting race videos this week, we have a pretty good angle of the breakout. While the resolution isn’t super high, the camera is positioned in a pretty good spot close to the line of the 15 meter mark.

Groumi, swimming for Michigan in the navy blue caps in lane 5 (lane 1 is closest to the camera), pushes right up to the 15 meter mark. It’s hard to tell exactly where his head breaks the surface, but on a frame-by-frame, based on the changing color of the cap as it emerges, it seems like this frame or the next one is where he breaks the surface.

Click the image to enlarge

The 15 meter rules are written with a little technical imprecision, but in essence – the head must break the surface of the water at 15 meters. The yellow laneline markers are not official (because laneline markers can shift), but in this case seem to line up pretty well with the black marks on the wall. The line drawn above is my best effort to draw that 15 meter line based on the wall.

Some part of the swimmer must break the surface of the water throughout the race, except it shall be permissible for the swimmer to be completely submerged during the turn and for a distance of not more than 15 meters (16.4 yards) after the start and each turn. By that point the head must have broken the surface.

Ultimately, the image above feels like he was either bang-on the 15 meter mark, or past it but the smallest of margins. Based on what we have, this feels like a 50/50 call where the on-deck official’s call could have rightly been upheld, or the “benefit of doubt to the swimmer” standard could have been applied, though the sense around the conference is that Groumi was “clearly” past 15 meters.

Race Video:

Ultimately, while the Wolverines’ competitors from Indiana and Ohio State probably would have liked to see the call stand, the outcome leaves a three-team battle heading into the final two days of competition, which will certainly be more exciting for neutral observers than the DQ would have been. But the opaque process of appeals and overturns again ignites conversations about a lack of transparency in swimming officiating that we see across levels and conferences, with calls made, times changed, and calls reversed without explanations.

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Ale
1 month ago

The official raised his hand walking towards the deck referee, then he also talked to the referee when he got near.
The lane was not in the jurisdiction of the stroke judge on the other side.
The question is what prevails, at the end of the day: the infraction or the reporting?
There were other cases of overturned DQs based on technicallities such as a mistake made at writing the infraction report, by the official.
What do we judge, then? The infraction, the signaling speed or the writing of the report?

Thought
1 month ago

Any such rule in USASwimming?

Video rules
1 month ago

Honest question: why name Lucy for Big10 controversial call, but not identify the ACC officials? Curious only. I get that’s is a hornets nest; I don’t get why this hornets nest is worth playing in vs the other…

Tea rex
1 month ago

At an age group meet, I did 100 m back going the whole first 50 underwater. The referee (a swim parent) was NOT happy because I hadn’t told him I was going to DQ. By the time he noticed my infraction, I was well past 15m underwater. he said he couldn’t call a DQ because he missed the violation when it happened.
Remember, these refs are just people doing their best.

Human Ambition
1 month ago

So would it have been recognized as a NCAA record if it would have been that fast?

swim4fun
1 month ago

It is ridiculous that so few officials for a power 5 conference championship meet. I counted a total of 6 officials, no officials on either end of the pool to watch the turns and finishes.

Swim3057
Reply to  swim4fun
1 month ago

Obviously you have never been to the PAC12 meet. They use only 4.

swim4fun
Reply to  Swim3057
1 month ago

Going there next week. Contacted the meet ref to volunteer and was told they were “fully staffed”…

Curious Bystander
Reply to  Swim3057
1 month ago

Way more then 4 at ACCs

Video rules
Reply to  swim4fun
1 month ago

How many do you need? Video all over the place.

Crawler
1 month ago

So the mark is at 15 meters both in 25 yard and 25 meter pool courses?

Coach Chackett
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

Yet the backstroke flags are really close to 17 INCHES farther from the wall for SCM LCM. (Could be more than one stroke for young kids)

Crawler
Reply to  Braden Keith
1 month ago

It does make sense, but the position of the flags doesn’t.

MarshFAN
1 month ago

Ah controversy! What would sport be without it.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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