Firsts, Fasts, and Anomalies: Our Favorite Stats from Men’s NCAAs

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.

In This Story

21
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of
21 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
James Beam
5 months ago

Great stuff. This is like Tim Kurjjian story from ESPN’s Baseball Tonight!

1969Swimmer
5 months ago

Eddie Reese has been such a force since I was just an age-group swimmer: I was 11 when Scott Spann led the Horns to their first title, and here we are now 40 years later. And he just keeps going and going. What’s really interesting to me about him is that he’s so soft-spoken and hasn’t really promoted himself as much as a lot of other celebrity coaches. He just keeps winning and attracting generation after generation of top-notch swimmers. Some coaches burn out or lose the ability to relate to younger kids, but not Eddie. I’ll definitely miss him.
ETA: How do you figure 75 years? They first started scoring the NCAA national meets in 1937, which is… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by 1969Swimmer
DCSwim
Reply to  1969Swimmer
5 months ago

Funnily enough, Eddie won a National title with the younger Spann too!

Willswim
5 months ago

For fun, I tried to pick 16 swimmers and 4 divers from everyone who has ever swam for Eddie Reese and create the best possible lineup to take to NCAAs. It was really hard and there were so many great swimmers I had to cut but I managed to get at least one Auburn swimmer on the roster lol. Try it, you’ll be surprised how quickly you have to make difficult choices.

1969Swimmer
Reply to  Willswim
5 months ago

That’s awesome. Backstroke alone: Clay Britt, Rick Carey, Neil Walker, or Aaron Peirsol? Who do you put on that 800 free relay when his teams won that event 15 times?

Last edited 5 months ago by 1969Swimmer
Willswim
Reply to  1969Swimmer
5 months ago

I tried to only take into account college success and mostly ignored post grad accomplishments. I don’t remember what I finished with, I should have saved it. But even if I had saved my roster it probably wouldn’t be as informed as some of yours. Maybe SwimSwam can take a crack at it? The comments section alone would be worth it lol.

Thomas
Reply to  1969Swimmer
5 months ago

No Shebat or Katz?

Coach Macgyver
Reply to  1969Swimmer
5 months ago

I got to go will Neil Walker. 44 in a speedo brief back in the 90’s was insane.

wethorn
Reply to  Willswim
5 months ago

That’s an interesting idea. Ideally, you’d control some for eras, eg, Scott Spann Sr’s 47 second 100 fly in the early 80s was an American record but wouldn’t even qualify now…gotta give some of the olds props in this exercise. Maybe include the swimmer’s NCAA place in the event for context.

Willswim
Reply to  wethorn
5 months ago

Absolutely. If you don’t adjust for era it would basically just be a bunch of guys from the last few years.
Originally I wanted to make an all star roster for Cal too just to see how it compared to Eddie’s team, but I never did that part.

1969Swimmer
Reply to  Willswim
5 months ago

I’ve tried to do this sort of thing in my own spare time. Adjusting for era is tough. Even if you compare times as a percentage of each other, like the winning time as a percent of the world or American record at the time, it’s apples and oranges. The average percentage of drop of each record has been getting smaller over time, and the percentage difference between, for example, first and eighth and 16th, has been getting narrower, too. The best and easiest comparison is what people placed.

wethorn
Reply to  wethorn
5 months ago

Ok, here’s my first attempt. Caveat is that it’s highly likely I’ve missed some things. I started with the premise that only NCAA champions were eligible and I was able to fill out my roster of 16 swimmers and 4 divers with a winner in every single swimming and diving event. 19 of the 20 roster spots were multi-event winners. The final swimming roster spot was a tie between 3 guys who each won one title with an American record. I count 16 guys with titles who didn’t earn a roster spot.

All-time Texas NCAA team criteria

  • 16 swimmers and 4 divers
  • try to get winner for every event

All-time Texas NCAA team 

  1. Brendan Hansen, 8
… Read more »

Willswim
Reply to  wethorn
5 months ago

Now that’s impressive! Who’s on your relays?

Coach Macgyver
Reply to  wethorn
5 months ago

Great list. One small detail, Ricky Berens graduated long before 2013. I believe that was a swim where he entered the 500 and swam the 200.

1969Swimmer
Reply to  wethorn
5 months ago

That’s very impressive. I’ve done stuff like this in other swimming contexts. I think it shows that number of titles is the way to go. Relays complicate things. I’d say giving swimmers half-credit for relays they were on (since relays have twice as many points as individual events) is the way to go.

Springbrook
5 months ago

Fabulous article, which had to be a lot of work to pull together. This reader, and surely many others, appreciate your labors, Braden!

BTFD
5 months ago

No Zona?

leisurely1:29
5 months ago

Next can we get an in-depth article that compiles all of Rowdy’s post-race interview comments about swimmers’ families? Personally those are my favorite stats

Jay Ryan
Reply to  leisurely1:29
5 months ago

I want youtube links to all Townley interviews.

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, …

Read More »