What Impact Do the New 2015 NCAA Division I Qualifying Standards Have?

The 2014 NCAA Championship qualification standards didn’t change by that much as compared to the ’13 championships, with the exception of the women’s 1650 free (where the A time dipped under 16 minutes for the first time).

In 2015, the overall drops are a little more significant, with the women’s 1650 free automatic qualifying time coming down another 2-plus seconds.

NCAA qualifying standards for individual events, while typically a hot topic of conversation, aren’t really all that meaningful. Those swimmers who are going to hit the Automatic Qualifying marks are going to be in the top X number of swimmers that wind up getting invited based on the NCAA’s selection method, and the entire country knows that just hitting a B standard isn’t going to get them close to an NCAA invite.

Even in the sense that invited swimmers get additional swims based on having hit a “B” standard in those additional events, it’s extremely rare that a swimmer will score at NCAA’s in an event where they didn’t hit a “B” standard in-season. That’s probably why for at least the second-straight year, the NCAA hasn’t budged the individual “B” standards an inch.

These individual standards are useful for two important reasons, at least at the Division I level: one is so that schools can tout their accomplishments of hitting “consideration” and “automatic” standards to those who don’t understand the above; and the other is to keep sort of a barometer for how much faster the NCAA is getting.

As previously mentioned, NCAA women’s distance swimming is getting faster and faster and faster, and the standards reflect that. Three times in three seasons, the NCAA Record in that has been broken (by Stephanie Peacock in 2011 and 2012, by Brittany MacLean in 2014). That’s after Janet Evans held it for 22 years. This results in the time correction for the “A” standard that we’ve been seeing, and with Katie Ledecky coming for 2016 NCAA’s (she’s already a great deal ahead of the NCAA record before her freshman season).

Some other interesting changes include in the 200 fly, where the time standard got slower in 2014 (despite Tom Shields breaking the NCAA Record the year prior), but has again gotten faster for 2015.

Even with that 200 fly getting faster, the 200 IM “A” standard is now officially faster than the 200 fly “A” standard. That’s really just of academic interest, but it speaks to a very, very versatile generation of swimmers where the IM can be a focus, not just a byproduct.

The Real Interest – Relay Standards

The real impactful changes come not in the individual standards, rather they come in RELAY standards changing. That’s because relay standards can swing NCAA qualifications wildly. The simple version of qualification for relays is that you must have a relay hit a “Qualification Standard” to have any relays swim at NCAA’s. Once you get a relay in, you can then also swim any relays for which you have a provisional standard.

Unlike the individual events, relays don’t have any sort of a ranking system to determine qualification. Hit the standards, or stay home. That’s as compared to the individual standards, where if you retrofitted this year’s standards to last year’s NCAA Championship meet, they probably wouldn’t have any actual different on the outcome.

Note: this is basically a retro-fitting of the 2015 standards to 2014 results. Standards don’t exist in a bubble – teams could have taken another shot to improve their time to hit a standard at a time trial, last chance meet, etc. The purpose is to show the impact, not rewrite history.

Teams That Would Have Lost an Entry (MEN)
200 FRR 400 FRR 800 FRR 200 MR 400 MR
LSU Utah Georgia Tech UNC LSU
Purdue UNC West Virginia Purdue West Virginia
Florida State LSU Florida State West Virginia South Carolina
Georgia Notre Dame UNC Georgia Tech Purdue
Notre Dame West Virginia Wisconsin Kentucky
Stanford Purdue UNC
Teams That Would Have Lost an Entry (WOMEN)
200 FRR 400 FRR 800 FRR 200 MR 400 MR
Michigan Purdue Michigan UNC Duke
Missouri Missouri Notre Dame Duke Utah

The Changes

And last, but not least, below are the exact amount that each standard has changed by since 2014. Want to see a clean version of the 2015 standards? Click here.

Men’s A Men’s B   Women’s A Women’s B
19.25 (-.05) 20.19 50 Free 21.90 (-.09) 22.99
42.51 (+.03) 44.29 100 Free 47.85 (-.11) 49.99
1:33.62 (+.04) 1:37.99 200 Free 1:43.90 (-.01) 1:47.99
4:14.59 (-.7) 4:24.99 500 Free 4:36.45 (-.56) 4:47.79
14:46.26 (-.93) 15:30.39 1650 Free 15:56.18 (-2.23) 16:30.59
45.62 (-.15) 48.49 100 Back 51.63 (-.34) 55.09
1:40.88 (-.46) 1:46.39 200 Back 1:52.52 (-.19) 1:59.19
52.29 (-.25) 55.39 100 Breast 59.12 (-.07) 1:02.49
1:53.68 (-.42) 1:59.79 200 Breast 2:07.70 (-.59) 2:15.99
45.91 (-.02) 48.29 100 Fly 51.70 (-.20) 54.49
1:42.85 (-.3) 1:47.99 200 Fly 1:54.45 (-.09) 1:59.59
1:42.76 (-..62) 1:49.09 200 IM 1:55.35 (-.37) 2:01.59
3:42.40 (-1.08) 3:54.49 400 IM 4:05.37 (-/07) 4:19.39
Men’s Quali. Men’s Provis.   Women’s Quli. Women’s Provis.
1:18.02 (-.14) 1:18.62 (-.21) 200 Free Relay 1:29.49 (-.16) 1:30.17 (-.26)
2:53.11 (-.37) 2:54.66 (-.48) 400 Free Relay 3:16.41 (-.43) 3:18.11 (-.88)
6:22.81 (-1.31) 6:26.33 (-1.72) 800 Free Relay 7:07.20 (-.11) 7:11.28 (-.93)
1:25.63 (-.45) 1:26.58 (-.56) 200 Medley Relay 1:37.84 (-.17) 1:38.45 (-.36)
3:09.40 (-.86) 3:11.03 (-.97) 400 Medley Relay 3:34.25 (-.40) 3:35.87-.59)

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8 years ago

so the relay rule changes would have effectively removed all five UNC men’s relays, four West Virginia men’s relays, four LSU men’s relays and four Purdue men’s relays.

8 years ago

The practical effect of toughened “A” times, plus the incredible depth we’ve seen will mean that all but about 15-20 swimmers will have to peak for their conference championship meet or hit a peak time in very early season (perhaps on the first possible date by carryover from summer taper).

8 years ago

Off topic, but the photo above shows 21 Cal swimmers (no divers) at NCAAs. I thought that 18 was a hard cap for swimmers. Are teams allowed to bring alternates in case of injury or illness or did the three extra guys just show up and pay their own way?

Reply to  duckduckgoose
8 years ago

And somehow they all look like Ryan Murphy

Reply to  duckduckgoose
8 years ago

they paid their own way to be part of the experience and to help out.

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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