NCAA Championship meets are full of fun facts and tidbits, and while we try to work them all into our various recaps and real-time articles, sometimes there are just too many to fit into those spaces.
In that honor, we have gone through the top 12 men’s teams from the NCAA Championship meet and put together our favorite stat or two from their performance. While not every team will have left the meet happy with their final finish, every team has something interesting, something historical, something fast to hang their hat on as they leave the meet, if they dig hard enough.
That’s the lesson that many of us have learned over the last year, searching for a silver lining in an endless pool of clouds.
Many of these stats were hand-compiled, hand-counted, and hand-checked. We’re counting on you to let us know if we mis-counted! Let us know in the comments below.
1. Texas Longhorns – So many of the stats and stories about the Longhorns have been told. Most (official) NCAA team championships ever. 5th title in 6 years. Eddie Reese extending his lead as the winningest college coach ever. But one that comes to light now after the championships: Eddie Reese is the only coach in the 75-year history of NCAA Division I men’s swimming to retire as a champion. Yes, retirement can be a bit ‘nebulous,’ with Reese saying he’s likely to still be around and help at practice next season, but in terms of official, announced retirements, no other coach has stepped down as head coach on top. The only other coach to win a title in their final season as a collegiate head coach was Richard Quick, who died from cancer in June 2009 after the Auburn men won the 2009 NCAA title. A surprising number of great coaches in swimming history were forced into retirement by mandatory retirement age rules. That includes names like Bob Kiphuth at Yale, and Matt Mann at Michigan, both of whom were forced to retire at age 68. Reese turned 68 on July 23, 2009, and has led the Longhorns to 6 NCAA team titles since.
2. Cal Golden Bears – The Cal men were the NCAA runners-up to Texas for the 5th time in the last 6 seasons. The second-place finish extends their streak of top 2 NCAA finishes to 11 consecutive seasons. While the Golden Bears would sure trade their streak for Texas’ 5 titles, that run of consistency is impressive, and one even Texas can’t boast (they placed 5th in 2013, when Michigan won). They now move one closer to Michigan’s record of 12-straight top 2 team finishes at the NCAA Championships, earned in the first 12 NCAA Championship meets where official team awards were given from 1937 to 1948. Michigan’s streak almost-certainly would have been longer, if the NCAA had awarded team titles at the championship meet prior to 1937.
3. Florida – The last time there was more than 1 freshman in an NCAA “A” final in the 50 free was 2015, when Caeleb Dressel won the title and Paul Powers placed 8th. Including Florida freshman Adam Chaney, who placed 3rd, there were 3 NCAA newcomers in this year’s A-final. Going back to 1996, the last year we consistently have NCAA results in our results archive, we couldn’t find any other occasion where there were 3 or more freshman (and more often than not, there were no freshman). The other two were Bjorn Seeliger of Cal and Youssef Ramadan of Virginia Tech. That doesn’t even include Matt King of Alabama, who swam an A-final time, but was disqualified in prelims. Chaney gives Florida, along with Caeleb Dressel, two of the fastest freshman sprinters in history.
4. Georgia – Showing just how top-heavy this year’s NCAA Championship meet was, Georgia placed 4th with 268 points. That’s the lowest-scoring 4th-place team at NCAAs since 1998, when Tennesseee scored just 233 points. That year featured a 599-point outlay by Stanford that remains one of the most dominant meets in NCAA Championship history. This is still the Bulldogs’ 2nd-best finish and 2nd-best point total in NCAA Championship history, though, behind only their 3rd-place finish in 1997.
5. Louisville – When Louisville hired Arthur Albiero as head coach in August of 2003, the program had never scored at a men’s NCAA Championship meet. That trend held through his first season, but by year two, in 2005, they hit paydirt and were off to the races. They have now scored at 16 straight NCAA Championship meets. No coaching hire in the 21st century has done more to turn a program with essentially no national legacy into a powerhouse than has Albiero. That’s also the Cardinals’ 2nd-straight top 5 finish, which follows their first ACC team title.
6. Indiana – Once star sprinter Bruno Blaskovic suffered a back injury that has him out of the water for 6-8 months, there were not high hopes for the Indiana men this season. A 6th place finish is a big moral victory for them. The Hoosiers’ core will return almost entirely intact next season: the team didn’t use a single senior on any of its relays.
7. Ohio State – The Buckeyes’ 7th place finish, combined with a 9th-palce finish last season, made for their best back-to-back finish since 1965 and 1966. In 1965, they placed 5th, and in 1966 they placed 9th. After the retirement of the legendary Mike Peppe in 1963, those back-to-back top 10 finishers were the last two year run of this quality for more than 50 years.
8. NC State – The Wolfpack snapped a four-straight streak of 4th-place finishes at NCAAs, but it might not be long until they return. On top of a dynamite recruiting class coming in, the Wolfpack had 0 individual points scored from seniors at NCAAs. While pretty rare, this is actually the second-straight NCAA Championship meet where a top 8 team won’t lose any individual scorers: Florida placed 6th in 2019 without any senior points.
9. Virginia Cavaliers – The Cavaliers earned a top 10 finish not on stars but on depth. They had just 1 A-finalist at the meet, senior Keefer Barnum, who was 5th in the 100 breast and 7th in the 200 breast. How did they get there? For one, they beat seed. Along with the Cal Golden Bears and Florida Gators, Virginia was one of only three schools to improve their seed time in all 5 relays. They broke school records in 9 events at the meet. That’s not the kind of number we usually see from a top 10 team, which generally has more-established school records than that. The Cavaliers’ star power will start to grow this fall, when freshman Jack Aikins joins the team, but the smoke is rising from this program.
10. Texas A&M Aggies – Entering the 2021 NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships, the Texas A&M men had never won an NCAA title in any event, while the Texas A&M women had won 10. While the Aggie men have been a solid middle-tier program at the NCAA Championships for a long time, they’ve never really poked much at the upper echelon of teams. But with Shaine Casas’ 3 titles the Aggies now join 70 other schools to have won D1 event titles. Significant in its own right, here’s why else this is noteworthy: previously, Texas A&M had been the highest-ranked school in all-time individual women’s event titles to have never won a men’s title. That honor now goes to Nevada, which has won 5 diving titles and doesn’t sponsor a men’s program. Among swimming titles, Clemson has won 4 women’s without any men’s, though now both programs are discontinued there. Hawaii (2 women’s swimming titles, 2 women’s diving titles, 0 men’s titles) is the highest program on that list that still sponsors varsity programs for both genders.
11. Virginia Tech – The Hokies’ 13 top 16 finishes at this year’s NCAA Championships is the most the program has ever had. Their previous best was 11 at the 2013 NCAA Championships. The Hokies won their first All-America award in 2004, when Gus Calado as a freshman placed 12th in the 200 meter fly. In fact, Virginia Tech actually scored more All-America finishes this year than they did last year, where the CSCAA awarded all qualifiers All-America honors. This was the team’s highest-ever NCAA Championship placement, by 7 spots.
12. (Tie) Michigan – A career best of 19.02 in the 50 free final for 5th place wraps up Gus Borges‘ career (pending NCAA waivers for a 5th year) as the #2-ranked 50 freestyler in Michigan history. It’s not totally uncommon to have fast father-son combo swimmers, but it is incredibly rare to have both on a school’s all-time top 10 list at the same time, as evolutions in the sport tend to push these lists faster-and-faster over time. But his dad, Gustavo Borges, remains the 9th-fastest Wolverine ever in the 50 yard free thanks to his 19.48 from 1993.
12. (Tie) Arizona – Arizona senior Brooks Fail finished 3rd in the 500 free, 4th in the mile, and 8th in the 200 fly – with the latter coming in the same session. That makes him the first Arizona Wildcat to earn top 3 finishes in all of his individual races in the same meet since Cory Chitwood did so at the 2011 NCAA Championships – 6th in the 100 back, 1st in the 200 back, 2nd in the 200 IM.