Grand Canyon University Analyzes First Year in Division I (Video Report)

Grand Canyon University recently completed its first year as a Division I program, after having to sit out of post season competition for the last 4 years. SwimSwam spoke with head coach Steve Schaffer as well as a few of GCU’s stand out athletes this year about their experience competing at the highest level.

Schaffer stated that as a team, their goal was to make NCAA’s this season and score within the top 25. The first goal was actually met sooner than they may have thought it would be, as Mark Nikolaev scored an NCAA “A” cut at the Northwestern Invite in November. Nikolaev swam a 44.99 100 backstroke leading off the GCU 400 medley relay. The relay itself came within .02 of an NCAA “A” cut, almost certainly guaranteeing a nod for the big meet as well. The team would end up swimming 3 relays at NCAA’s, the 200 and 400 medley, plus the 200 free relay.

The Men’s Division I NCAA championships is always full of surprises, and if you aren’t completely prepared for it, it can easily sweep you off your feet. The GCU men expressed that they learned a lot from just being at the meet, one that they said was the fastest competition they’ve ever been a part of.

They weren’t able to score with any of their relays, and only with Nikolaev individually. Coming into the meet, Mark was seeded 2nd with a 44.71. In prelims he swam a 45.30, which put him at a painful 9th going into finals. At night, Nikolaev dropped just under a tenth to turn in a 45.21, good for 10th and garnering the teams only 7 points of the meet. This yielded GCU 35th place overall, 10 spots back from where they wanted to be, but only 22 points out of the top 25.

Looking forward, the team was happy with the experience they gained throughout the season and hungry to chase more success in the future. Schaffer mentions that they have already developed goals for next season, hoping that a combination of returners as well as incoming freshman can contribute to further success at the NCAA level.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

3 Comment threads
10 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
10 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted

Eran Ber is the real MVP

Ghost Of NCAA's Past

As a DII team, GCU had a history of very fast in season swimming, then not being able to better, or often not even duplicate, their in season times.

Now that they’re in “The BIGS”, where fast in season swimming is almost a necessity just to get to the meet, the coaching staff is going to have to evaluate their training methods & philosophy, in order to provide their athlete’s the best opportunity to qualify for, then perform comparatively, at “The SHOW”.

Not the easiest task, but their track (pool?) record requires it. They truly have a long history of a problem with replicating in season performances at the NCAA Championships, when it ultimately counts!


Just like the other Arizona team!!!

Wise Sage

you are just jealous that people are coming to asu and not U of A

Steve Schaffer

1. THANK YOU!! Being trolled on SwimSwam puts our program in fine company. Surely a good sign of our progress.

2. Long history? Let’s review the GCU Men’s team long history of post seasons.
2007 – program did not exist
2008 – DII no post season qualifiers
2009 – DII no post season qualifiers
2010 – DII placed 16th
2011 – DII placed 4th
2012 – DII placed 5th
2013 – DII placed 4th
2014-2017 – ineligible for post season – DI transition
2018 – DI placed 35th

We always strive to be better, but few teams, if any, have that kind of post season record in such a short history of existence. I think we will be ok.


Oh jeez…FACTS!


Sorry guys but no place for you on Division I. You should stay division II

Go Bearcats

Not being able to compete in post season for the past few years definitely hurt recruiting wise as well. Just wait good things to come

Ghost Of NCAA's Past

Let me clarify my comments. The intent of my post was not to question the “success” of the GCU program during it’s D II membership. Indeed, if you just look at Team Finish history presented here, it is quite impressive, without question. On a side note, there were/are numerous “new” D II Men’s Teams (since that was the information provided) over the last 10-12 seasons, whose impact on the NCAA D II Championship meet was at a much greater level than GCU’s, and more immediate in fact, As an example, there are two that come to mind who had NCAA Individual Event Champions in their first season of existence. This brings into question the statement “but few teams, if any,… Read more »

Charlie Cunningham

Thank you for all of you that have enlightening us in what we need to do. What would be nice is if you would use your real name and team you are with so we could take a look at your results. I get your “keyboard courage”. I call it “gutless”. From the beginning of this transition. The 4 year vision has been to have at least one individual and a relay qualify for DI NCAA’s in our first year, we achieved that and a little more. Yes, could we have done better based on our mid-season meet, sure. But for our first time at this meet, I’d say we did well. The guys that are juniors gained experience at… Read more »

Ghost Of NCAA's Past

You are right Charlie. I too have called out others on this message board who hide behind anonymous handles, more often for making unverifiable accusations, or spreading innuendos or unsubstantiated hearsay, though. But I do agree one should not put into writing something that they would not be OK with having their name attached to it. My name is Brad Flood. I was the Head Coach of D II University of Bridgeport – Women from inception (2004-05) and Men from inception (2009-10) through the 2013-14 season. I have no problem with your checking back on my team’s performances at NCAA’s, compared to our in-season/entry times. We were actually one of the Men’s programs that had an NCAA individual champion in… Read more »

Steve Schaffer

Brad, I understand that you have a friend who coaches in the WAC and for some reason you think you know all about us, and I even understand you wanting to help your friend, but why not do that by building up his/her program instead of using hyperbole and statements that are simply not factual to run down ours? I have no problem owning our history, but for reasons only know by you, you are willfully misrepresenting that history. You refer to our “truly long history of not replicating in season performances at the NCAA Championships – which you later indicate as referring to our DII appearances. You offer no actual evidence, but it makes for a good story to… Read more »

I’m Just Here For the Comments

Steve and Charlie, Just an outside common man perspective here from someone who has no credentials to really comment on the analysis and counter analysis of this debate. No one wants to have their accomplishments questioned or methods put under scrutiny, especially if you believe the claims are factually inaccurate, but taking the tack of getting hyper defensive and calling Mr Flood a coward at one point when he went out of his way to extol everything your program has done since it’s inception (except for this one thing) makes you look petty and unable to gracefully accept what on the surface appears to be an attempt at constructive criticism. I’m thinking the better tack here would have been to… Read more »

About Coleman Hodges

Coleman Hodges

Coleman started his journey in the water at age 1, and although he actually has no memory of that, something must have stuck. A Missouri native, he joined the Columbia Swim Club at age 9, where he is still remembered for his stylish dragon swim trunks. After giving up on …

Read More »

Want to take your swimfandom to the next level?

Subscribe to SwimSwam Magazine!