The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) announced Wednesday the cancellation of its 2021 Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving National Championships after it was learned the competition’s venue would be unable to fulfill its hosting obligations.
The meet was scheduled to take place at the Columbus Aquatic Center in Columbus, Ga., with the women’s meet March 3-6 and the men’s March 10-13, and was called off after the facility “determined it would be unable to fulfill its hosting obligation due to COVID-19 concerns,” according to the NAIA press release.
The events were originally slated to be held in Knoxville, Tenn., but had to be relocated due to COVID-19 restrictions. It was also going to be the first (and only) time the competition split up the men’s and women’s meets due to the pandemic.
Due to the fact that the host site withdrew within 90 days of the championships (as of Feb. 3, the meet would’ve only been 28 days away), the meet is cancelled following a policy approved unanimously by the NAIA’s Council of Presidents in December. This is the first event cancelled under this guideline.
According to an email notice sent to NAIA members, the National Office first learned that the Columbus facility would be unable to host the event on Monday, Feb. 1. The association added that, since all 28 NAIA Championships are scheduled within a tight three-month window this year, “opting to reschedule championship dates would further exacerbate challenges for both conference and institutional resources.”
It also mentioned that a similar situation arose last week, when the cheer and dance championships were able to be relocated within the 90-day window “because we had developed and identified, as a contingency plan, an experienced host available and ready to step in.”
However, the swimming & diving situation was unable to replicate this, mostly because Columbus was the event’s backup host.
“Unfortunately, with Columbus already serving as an alternate host, we don’t have that option with swim and dive,” said NAIA President and CEO Jim Carr. “High-quality, student-focused championships are at the core of the NAIA experience and cancelling is done only after all other viable options have been exhausted.
“In this case, we are simply out of time and possibilities with too much at stake related to the health and safety of our student-athletes, staff, and fans to move forward.”
According to a source inside the NAIA, there were “multiple options” presented to the national office with facilities willing to host and facilitate the meet, but these requests were not listened to.
Columbus hosted four straight championship meets from 2016-2019 before Knoxville held last season’s competition. Keiser University are three-time defending NAIA champions on the men’s side, while SCAD Savannah have won three straight titles for the women.