The Ohio State Buckeyes announced that their men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams would be combining beginning in the 2017-2018 season. This comes after the Buckeye men finished 2nd at the 2017 Big Ten Championships and the women 5th.
Over the past 10 years, several teams have taken a similar path, choosing to join their two programs to form one team with a head coach and assistant coaches that see over the entire program. In 2016, the Redhawks at the Miami University, Ohio combined their university’s program following the retirement of long time men’s head coach, Pete Lindsay.
While many of the top programs, schools like Texas, Cal and Stanford, are still gender-specific, schools like Michigan and NC State are combined programs that have made waves nationally over recent years.
We dove into the results of five schools both before and after their respective teams combined in hopes of finding out: What impact does combining a college swim program have on its success? For teams who combined their programs 4+ years ago, we’ve looked at both their conference finish and NCAA results for three years prior to the switch up until present day. For teams who combined more recently, we looked at finishes for the three years prior to combination and compiled data up to the present day as to the results following their change. Along with their conference scores in parenthesis is the percent change from the year prior.
*The Big Ten started scoring the C-Final in 2016 and the SEC in 2013 causing point totals in those years and the following championships to be skewed.
Ohio State just recently announced that they would be combining their men’s and women’s programs. Bill Dorenkott, who was the women’s head coach, is going to take over as the Buckeyes’ coach for the newly combined program. The men’s team finished tied for 2nd in the Big Ten this year and the women 5th, with 1382 and 837 points respectively. Their results over the last three years were:
|2015||2nd (623)||6th (350)|
|2016||3rd (1294.5)||4th (859)|
|2017||2nd (1382: 6.8%)||5th (837: -2.6%)|
|Year 1 (2015)||Men: 90, Women: 5|
|Year 2 (2016)||Men: 91, Women: 84|
|Year 3 (2017)||Men: 58.5, Women: 52|
What will be most telling over the next few years is how the men’s team continues to progress as the women gain traction. The men’s program has continued to improve as they bettered their point total from 2016 by almost 7% this year at Big Tens. In 2016, the Buckeye women jumped from 5 points at NCAAs in 2015 to 84 in 2016 while the men went from 90 in 2015 to 91. Both teams took a minor step back at NCAAs this year but both still scored north of 50 points in Indianapolis.
Miami announced that they would be combining their programs last March (2016) and brought on Hollie Bonewit-Cron to take the helm of the newly structured program. In her first year as head coach, Bonewit-Cron led the RedHawks to 4th places finishes for both the men and the women in the Mid-American Conference. The immediate benefit of combining for Miami was apparent as the men improved their point total from the previous year by 3.9% and the women by a whopping 36%. The men had been on a streak of decreasing point totals at the conference champions and the women were increasing marginally for two years prior. The women also returned to, and scored at NCAAs for the third straight year.
|Miami (Ohio)||Men||Women||Miami (Ohio)||Men||Women|
|2014||4th (527)||2nd (496)||2017||4th (518.5: 3.9%)||4th (560 pts: 36%)|
|2015||5th (507: -3.8%)||5th (443: 11%)|
|2016||5th (499: -1.6%)||5th (410.5: 7.3%)|
Michigan’s story following the combination of their programs has been a very interesting one. The men were so dominant for several years under Mike Bottom, who took over the men’s program in 2008. In 2012, Michigan combined the men’s and women’s programs and bottom was appointed the head coach of the entire program. Immediately following the coaching changes, Michigan’s program continued their winning ways on the men’s side and remained in the middle of the pack on the women’s side. Their Big Ten finishes immediately prior to the change and following were:
|2010||2nd (715.5)||3rd (462.5)||2013||1st (899: 22%)||6th (309: 28%)|
|2011||1st (678: -5.2%)||6th (367: -21%)||2014||1st (889: -1.1%)||5th (361: 17%)|
|2012||1st (738.5: 8.9%)||8th (241: -34%)||2015||1st (760: -15%)||3rd (478.5: 33%)|
|2016||1st (1475.5)||1st (1361)|
|2017||2nd (1382: -6.3%)||1st (1287: -5.4%)|
As far as NCAAs, the Men won in 2013 and scored 480 points. Following their championship the Wolverines regressed in 2014 and 2015, scoring 310 and 312 points respectively. The women on the other hand have slowly built up their program to be a national power. Prior to the combination of the programs, the Michigan women dropped their Big Ten Championship point total to 241 in 2012, a 54% decrease from 2010. Although the Michigan women finished in the middle of the pack following the coaching structure change, their point totals increase year over year leading to their Big Ten Championships in 2016 and 2017. On the other hand, the Wolverine men lost to Indiana at this year’s Big Ten Championships after a six year winning streak. More telling is the fact that the Michigan men’s team averaged only a 1.97% increase in the first three years following the change. The women averaged a 26% increase.
|Year 1 (2010)||Men: 204, Women: 76||Year 1 (2013)||Men: 480, Women: 9|
|Year 2 (2011)||Men: 181, Women: 13||Year 2 (2014)||Men: 310, Women: 23|
|Year 3 (2012)||Men: 271, Women: 14||Year 3 (2015)||Men: 312, Women: 49|
|Year 4 (2016)||Men: 158, Women: 150|
|Year 5 (2017)||Men: 82, Women: 159|
What make’s Michigan so interesting is that their men were so dominant for a long time and since their programs were combined, the men have taken a step back by their championship standards. While the Michigan men are nationally prominent, they scored only 82 points at this years NCAA championships. The Wolverine women, on the other hand, are the two time defending champs in the Big Ten and are making national waves.
|2010||4th (417.5)||4th (497)||2013||5th (570.5: 24%)||4th (1018: 62%)|
|2011||3rd (602.5: 44%)||4th (466.5: -6.1%)||2014||6th (713: 25%)||5th (780: -23%)|
|2012||4th (459: -24%)||2nd (629.5: 35%)||2015||4th (918: 29%)||4th (745.5: -4.4%)|
|2016||6th (745: -19%)||2nd (1139.5: 53%)|
|2017||6th (770.5: 3.4%)||4th (855: -24.9%)|
In 2012, Tennessee women’s coach, Matt Kredich, took over as the Head Coach of a combined University of Tennessee Swim Program. The change came after the men dropped from 3rd in 2011 to 4th in 2012 at SEC Championships and a 24% decrease in point totals. The women had a great 2012, posting a 35% increase in points at SECs from 2011. Since the switch, the highest the men of Tennessee have finished is 4th at SECs. On the other hand, the women have finished as high as second (2016) and scored over 1000 points twice in five years following Kredich’s naming.
|Year 1 (2010)||Men: 56, Women: 99.5||Year 1 (2013)||Men: 59, Women: 325.5|
|Year 2 (2011)||Men: 106.5, Women: 148||Year 2 (2014)||Men: 98, Women: 223|
|Year 3 (2012)||Men: 34, Women: 249||Year 3 (2015)||Men: 111, Women: 125|
|Year 4 (2016)||Men: 188, Women: 111|
|Year 5 (2017)||Men: 55, Women: 35|
In very similar fashion to the Michigan men, the Tennessee women peaked at NCAAs in the first year post-combination. In 2013 the Lady Volunteers scored 325.5 points at NCAAs, the only time they have eclipsed 300 points over the eight years we looked at. The Volunteer men followed a very similar path to the Michigan Wolverine women, slowing building on their NCAA point totals in the three years following the combination of programs. Both teams have taken a step back as of late. In 2016 both Volunteer teams scored north of 100 points at NCAAs. This year, neither hit the 60 point mark. The Tennessee women scored 35 points this year in Indy and the men scored 55.
Minnesota too saw progress for their women following Kelly Kremer being named the Head Coach of their combined program in 2011. Following the 2011 season, the Gopher women won four straight Big Ten Championships. The men placed 4th in the Big Ten for three years following Kremer’s naming, then finished 6th in the 4th year, 2015. From a conference place perspective, not bad, right? Well, from 2012-2017 the Minnesota men averaged a 7.12% decrease year over year in points at Big Tens. While the women won four straight titles from 2012-2015 they averaged only a 5.9% increase year over year from 2012-2017.
|2009||3rd (507)||2nd (665)||2012||4th (403: -20%)||1st (680.5: 18%)|
|2010||3rd (497: -2%)||2nd (572.5: -14%)||2013||4th (378: -6.2%)||1st (831.5: 22%|
|2011||4th (505.5: 1.7%)||2nd (578: .96%)||2014||4th (378: 0%)||1st (760: -8.6%)|
|2015||6th (359: -5%)||1st (618.5: -19%)|
|2016||4th (919)||3rd (927.5)|
|2017||4th (879: -4.4%)||4th (1086: 17.1%)|
|Year 1 (2009)||Men: 108, Women: 136||Year 1 (2012)||Men: 31, Women: 131|
|Year 2 (2010)||Men: 82, Women: 102||Year 2 (2013)||Men: 53, Women: 141|
|Year 3 (2011)||Men: 91, Women: 192||Year 3 (2014)||Men: 29, Women: 136.5|
|Year 4 (2015)||Men: 24, Women: 118|
|Year 5 (2016)||Men: 41, Women: 70|
|Year 6 (2017)||Men: 43, Women: 168|
As for their NCAA results, the Gophers have been slightly more consistent than some other teams we have looked at. The women scored their highest total over the seven years we examined in 2011, 192, right before Kremer was named head coach. From 2012-2014, the Gopher men took a significant step back, cutting their by nearly 2/3 from 2011 to 2012, then remained between 24 and 53 points from 2013-2017.
So what do all of these numbers mean? Well, in each respective conference, based on the teams that we have examined, the results vary greatly. The chart for each respective teams conference point total performance for the data we have is below. This chart is calculating the average percent change three years prior to the combination and to present day.
*For Ohio State, since they just combined, there are not results yet. Miami (Ohio) only has 2017 to show for their change. We omitted 2013 from Tennessee’s results because it is the year that SEC scoring changed. For the Big Ten schools we omitted 2016 because it is the year the C-Final started being scored.
|Conferences||Prior (M)||Prior (F)||Post (M)||Post (F)|
For the women, the results were very different. As was stated above, Michigan won the Big Ten in 2016 and 2017, but even from 2013-2015, their improvement was clear. The Wolverine women averaged a 24.2% increase over those three years. Compared to the totals of the men, the average of the five women’s programs was a 18.66% increase year over year. This includes all years from the point of the combination to present day for each respective program. For the men it was just 1.58%.The data shows that while men’s programs were improving marginally prior to the combination of programs, the effect was not great following the change. None of the men’s programs improved dramatically in the first years following the restructuring of the program. Minnesota, from 2012-2017 actually averaged a 7.12% decrease in conference point totals.
The final results we can look at are NCAA results immediately prior to and post the structural program changes. The NCAA point total averages are below:
|NCAAs||Prior (M)||Prior (F)||Post (M)||Post (F)|
What is interesting is the difference between the conference tables and NCAA tables. At NCAAs, both men and women have about a 7 point different from prior to change to post change. For conferences though, the women showed significantly more improvement than the men. Over the years following program combinations, the women’s NCAA scores improved marginally, from 92.9 to 99.575. The men went from 94.46 to 101.8575.
While the sample size is small (and therefore we can’t form conclusions) it seems that women’s programs have benefited greatly from college program combinations. Whether that has to do with the new ability to train with athletes of the opposite sex, a possible coaching change, or another factor is unclear. But the results at each respective conference championship along with the marginal improvement at NCAAs go to show that combining programs could certainly be a benefit.